A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Apo, Abuja, on Tuesday, struck out six charges bordering on alleged N1.97bn fraud preferred against a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Godsday Orubebe.
Justice Olukayode Adeniyi struck out the case and discharged Orubebe and other defendants after the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, the agency which filed the case, withdrew it on Tuesday.
Orubebe was charged along with others including an Assistant Director at the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Oludare Alaba.
Other defendants were the Director of Contracts, Gitto Costruzioni Generali Nig. Ltd., Mr. Ephraim Zari.
The prosecution had alleged in the six counts that the defendants, including Orubebe, who was then the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs under the former President Goodluck Jonathan administration, diverted funds meant for the compensation of owners of properties on the Eket Urban section of the East-West Road in Eket, Akwa Ibom State.
All the defendants had pleaded not guilty to the six counts and had been granted bail by the court.
Trial was scheduled to commence on Tuesday.
But at the resumed hearing on Tuesday, instead of calling its first witness, the ICPC, through its prosecuting counsel, Mr. Ekoi Akpos, applied to withdraw the case.
Akpos informed the judge that the commission decided to terminate the case following an understanding from all the parties that the road construction project would proceed as originally planned with compensation paid to those whose properties were damaged.
He hinged his application to withdraw the case on sections 492(3) and 355 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
Meanwhile, shortly after the defendants were arraigned last year, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), had sent a letter to the Chairman of the ICPC, Ekpo Nta, confirming that the N1,965,576,153.46, which Orubebe allegedly diverted, had not been expended.
The letter with reference number, DPPA/MNDA/345/16, was signed on behalf of the AGF by the Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation, Mr. U.E. Mohammed.
It confirmed that the money in issue “has not been expended, but awaiting further contract decisions and directives from the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs.”
The letter, dated December 16, 2016, added, “In view of the above, the basis for the prosecution of the accused persons for misappropriation does not exist and thus, further prosecution cannot be justified.”
The prosecution had accused Orubebe in one of the withdrawn six counts of “diverting the sum of N1, 965,576,153.46 out of the sum of N2, 320,686,826.00 initially released by the Federal Government meant for the compensation of owners of properties on Eket Urban section of the East- West Road.”
He was also accused of “conferring unfair advantage upon Gitto Costruzioni Generali Nig. Ltd, by circumventing the approval of the Federal Executive Council for the dualisation of the Eket Urban road where the former minister`s decision to rehabilitate the road instead of dualisation falls contrary to the award letter No.WR14522/VOL.1/55 dated 28/09/2006 as approved by the FEC.”