The court of appeal in Abuja has set aside a judgment that barred the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from prosecuting Jonah Otunla, a former Accountant-General of the federation.
In a judgment delivered on Monday, a three-member panel of the court of appeal held that Otunla failed to show documented evidence of a non-prosecution agreement between him and the EFCC.
Danlami Senchi, who read the judgment, held that an agreement by mere words cannot be established.
“In the instant case, there is no evidence to support the pleading of the respondent (Otunla) that he will not be prosecuted and that criminal or civil proceedings should not be instituted or initiated against him,” the judge held.
“There is no plea bargain or anything documentary evidence relating to the presidential 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.”
The former AGF had claimed that there was an existing verbal agreement between him and Ibrahim Magu, former acting chair of the EFCC, that he would not be prosecuted if he refunded illicit funds linked to him.
Otunla was being investigated in relation to two cases — the alleged diversion of about N24 billion meant for disengaged staff of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and N2 billion allegedly received from the office of the national security adviser (ONSA).
Otunla had, in an affidavit, claimed that he met with Ibrahim Magu, former chair of the EFCC, in 2015 when he was being investigated and that the then-acting EFCC chair told him in person to “refund the monies linked to your companies and nobody will prosecute you”.
He said that based on Magu’s promise, he had a reconciliatory meeting with the team of investigators, where he immediately undertook to make available some funds as a refund.
Otunla said in line with the agreement, one of the companies linked to him – Stellar Vera Development Ltd – refunded N750 million; another company – Damaris Mode Coolture Ltd – refunded N550 million, while the two firms later made an additional joint refund of N2,150,000,000.
He added that, at a point, he raised several managers’ cheques for N10 million in favour of the EFCC, which he handed to its economic governance section.
Otunla said, in all, he made a refund of N6,392,000,000 to the federation account through the EFCC.
In the 2021 judgment, Inyang Ekwo, federal high court judge, held that in view of the agreement between Magu and Otunla, the EFCC could no longer prosecute the former accountant-general for alleged offences committed while he was in office between 2011 and 2015.