The Court of Appeal, Abuja, has set aside the judgment of a lower court barring the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from initiating either civil or criminal proceedings against former Accountant General of the Federation, Jonah Oguniyi Otunla.
A three-member panel of the Court of Appeal, in a judgment marked: CA/A/657/2021, Monday, January 30, 2023 held that Otunla failed to prove that there was actually a non-prosecution agreement between him and the EFCC.
The court upheld the arguments of EFCC’s lawyer, Sylvanus Tahir, SAN, and resolved the four issues, identified for determination in favour of the Commission. Justice Danlami Senchi, who read the judgment, noted that Otunla did not provide any written commitment, except his words and that of his lawyer, that such an agreement existed.
Justice Senchi held that Otunla could not halt his prosecution by merely claiming that there was an agreement, which existence he failed to establish with any credible evidence.
“In the instant case, there is no evidence to support the pleading of the respondent (Otunla) that he will not be prosecuted; that criminal or civil proceedings should not be instituted or initiated against him.
“There is no plea bargain or any documentary evidence relating to the President Panel for the Recovery of Funds. On the whole, the appeal is meritorious and it is allowed. The judgment of the Federal High Court, in suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/2321/2021 delivered on the 16th day of July 2021 delivered by honourable Justice I. E. Ekwo is hereby set aside,” he said.
Other members of the panel – Justices Stephen Adah and Elfreda Williams-Daudu – agreed with the lead judgment.
The EFCC investigated Otunla in relation to two cases: The alleged diversion of about N24billion meant for disengaged staff of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and the N2billion allegedly received from the office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA.
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja had, in the July 16, 2021 judgment, upheld Otunla’s claim of an existing verbal agreement between him and the then acting Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, that he would not be prosecuted if he make refund to the federal government.