The Supreme Court of Nigeria on Monday, February 23, 2015, set aside the order of the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division, which allowed the removal from the records of court, a confessional statement of the Personal Assistant to former Minister of Aviation, Professor Babalola Borishade in a case of N6.5bn (six billion, five hundred million naira) fraud.
Borishade is being prosecuted alongside Roland Iyayi and George Eder, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Avsatel Communications Limited by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC on a 15-count amended charge bordering on conspiracy, forgery and abuse of office.
The accused persons allegedly took bribes and forged documents relating to a N6.5bn aviation contract during Borishade’s tenure as Aviation Minister.
Sequel to their arraignment sometime in 2009, trial commenced at the FCT High Court, Abuja presided over by Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar. The trial went on with no procedural hitches when the first nine witnesses testified.
However, the prosecution’s attempt through its counsel, Sebastine T. Hon to prove its case by tendering a document containing a confessional statement dated July 25, 2008, volunteered by one T. A Dairo, Personal Assistant to the former minister through the tenth prosecution witness, one Reuben Omosigbo, was resisted by counsel to all the accused persons led by Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN.
The defence’s objection to the admissibility of the document was predicated on the ground of involuntariness of the said statement.
In the circumstance, the trial court on June 9, 2010 ordered a “trial-within-trial” to determine the voluntariness and admissibility of the statement.
At the end of the mini trial, the trial court presided over by Justice Umar on March 1, 2011 ruled that the statement in contention was made voluntary and accordingly admitted same as exhibit AX.
Dissatisfied by the ruling of the trial court, the accused through their counsel lodged an appeal at the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal. The Appellate Court in its judgement dated April 25, 2012 allowed the appeal and consequently expunged the said exhibit AX from the records.
Aggrieved by the appellate court’s ruling, the prosecution (EFCC) proceeded to the Supreme Court, asking it to set aside the decision of the appellate court.
In its judgement on Monday, February 23, 2015 the Supreme Court upheld the appeal of the EFCC and ordered the restoration of the expunged exhibit AX in the records.
Delivering the judgement, Justice Centus Nweze on behalf of four other Justices stated that, “we hold that the lower court was in error when it expunged exhibit AX from the records. We, hereby, vacate the said order of the lower court expunging AX. In its place, we order the re-instatement or restoration of the said exhibit as part of the record”, the judgement read.
The apex court also ordered the expeditious trial of the ex-minister and other accused persons at the High Court. “The trial court shall continue, post-haste, with the hearing and determination of the charges before it”, the court ordered.
Head, Media & Publicity
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