By Abdulwahab Abdulah & Jane Echewodo
Justice I.U Bello of an Abuja High Court, has acquitted and discharged six persons accused of conspiracy and attempted murder of the late Director-General, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, Dr Dora Akunyili.
The suspects are, Francis Okoye, Emmanuel Nnakwe, Marcel Nnakwe, Emeka Orjiakora, Christopher Mbah, and Olisaemeka Igbokwe.
The accused persons, who were initially eight in number were charged with a four- count charge of conspiracy, attempted murder and murder brought against them by the state.
The charge reads: “That you Francis Okoye; Ebubedike; Emmanuel Nnakwe; Marcel Nnakwe; Emeka Orjiakor; Christopher Mbah; Olisaemeka Igbokwe; Chukwuka Ezeukwu; Jude Ugwu on or between October, 2001 to December 2003 at different places in the Federal Capital Territory and Anambra State agreed to do or cause to be done an illegal act to wit: cause the death of Dr Akunyili, Director-General, NAFDAC and that the said act was attempted to be done in pursuant of an agreement and that you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 97 of the Penal Code.”
Moment their plea was taken, the accused persons pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
It will be recalled that a no case submission was initiated by the accused persons through their counsel, Mr. Clement Onwuenwunor.
The 2nd and 3rd accused persons questioned the jurisdiction of the court to entertain counts 3 and 4 of the charge.
The no case submission was upheld by the the court, which was affirmed by the court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, but set aside the aspect of the ruling which declined jurisdiction to entertain counts 3 and 4 of the charge.
The 7th accused person had died sometime in 2005 while the 8th accused person was discharged by the Supreme Court.
Justice Bello in his judgment held that, “On the charge of conspiracy for instance, the prosecution could not have been successful in the face of exhibit 18(n), a manifest from MTN tendered before the court by the prosecution itself and indeed exhibit 20 equally a similar manifest tendered by the defence, both intended to establish any possible transaction or controvert any such transaction as stated by PW3 between him and 2nd accused through phone conversation.
“It turned not to be falsehood, this rendering the PW3 as unreliable witness and he is so branded. And with that position, the prosecution has failed to discharge the onus of proving the offence of conspiracy as charged. Accordingly, the accused persons are discharged and acquitted on that count.”
The judge also held that the prosecution was not able to pin the accused persons with the degree of certainty at the scene of the crime and obviously the commission of the crime at the scene.
According to Justice Bello, “Consequently, failure to investigate the alibi as raised by the accused persons and in particular 2nd accused, who had tendered exhibits D1-D7 representing his travel documents is fatal to the case of the prosecution’s case.
“In this regard, there is no option to holding the view that 2nd accused was indeed elsewhere representing the meaning of alibi as raised and is successfully so. I therefore, agree with the defence that the case of the prosecution is wholly based on suspicion and the charge on attempted murder cannot stand, and although, the prosecution was able to establish that there was in fact death of a human person being part of the ingredient of the substantive charge under Section 221 of the Penal Code, there is nothing in form of evidence directly or circumstantial showing that it is the accused persons that caused the death of that person, one Emeka Onuekutu while driving his Mitsubishi L3000 minibus with Reg. No. AE 763 AJL.
“In fact, by the evidence before this court per exhibit 53 representing Ballistician report stated clearly that it was the AK 47 in the possession of the Sergeant, Haruna Adamu, one of the policemen in the convoy of Dora Akunyili that was shot, indeed, the expired shell recovered from the scene corresponds with the AK 47 of the said Sergeant Adamu who gave evidence as PW 18 for the prosecution.”