The Supreme Court, on Friday, said the contract splitting charge for which former Deputy National Chairman (South) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Olabode George, and five others were convicted on October 26, 2009 by Justice Joseph Olubunmi Oyewole of a Lagos High Court was unknown to law.
Those charged with Chief Olabode George are Architect Aminu Dabo, Captain O. Abidoye, Alhaji Abdulahi Aminu Tafida, Alhaji Zanna Maideribe and Engr. Sule Aliyu.
They were all charged for contract splitting as Chairman and Board members of the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA).
The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgement of the high court but Justice John Afolabi Fabiyi, who led four other justices of the Supreme Court, on Friday, said the intent to defraud was not established on the part of George and others.
While setting aside the conviction, the apex court, in its 41-page judgement, said the offence was unknown to law at the time it was committed.
Justice Fabiyi said: “Let me state in passing that their Lordships of the below, with due diffidence, did not indicate the process of reasoning by which they implied that intention to defraud had been proved. In Nwosu v. The State (1996) 4NWLR (pt.35) 348 at 359, this court held that trial courts must arrive at their verdict through a process of reasoning which is analytical and not only command confidence but is punctuated with logical thinking based on cogent and admissible evidence and in which facts leading to the conviction of the accused are clearly found and legal inference clearly drawn”.
“The appellants (George and others) were not shown to have benefitted from any contract awarded and none of the companies to which contracts were awarded belonged to the appellant and members of his team. There was no evidence of any shortage whatsoever
“I must state it in clear terms that I fail to see how intention to defraud was proved as affirmed by the court below. In reality, it was not proved. It was an element or ingredient of offence as charged which needed proof beyond reasonable doubt. Where such a vital element was not proved as herein, the prosecution’s case must fail.
“It has been established that the case of the respondent rests on a shifting sand. The charge framed against the appellant in respect of splitting of contracts and disobedience of guideline in Exhibit P3 is unknown to any law written at the material time. They rest on nothing in the face of the provisions of Section 36(8) and (12) of the 1999 Constitution. They cannot stand as they fall flat. And to cap it, the prosecution laced the extant charge with intention to defraud, an extra element of the charge which was not proved beyond reasonable doubt. It was a complete mistrial by the lower courts”.