A veteran journalist and social activist, Mr Chika Nwabueze, has petitioned the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), Mr Abdulrasheed Bawa demanding thorough investigations into the prosecution by Port Harcourt office and subsequent acquittal of one Mrs Gloria Livingstone by Warri High Court 4.
He said that the circumstances that led to the discharge of the accused defendant by the judge despite the evidence against her is suspicious and need to be investigated to ascertain if the prosecutor failed in the discharge of his duties due to vested interests.
Nwabueze, who is one of the victims in the N14m fraudulent investment scheme allegedly perpetrated by the accused which led to him (Chika Nwabueze) and two other members of his church in Lagos, namely Osagie Aghas, and Mrs Choice Idehen to lose the whopping amount of money to Gloria Livingstone, claimed that the court couldn’t have acquitted the accused had the EFCC prosecutors not compromised the process.
In the petition dated July 29th, 2021 and addressed to Abdulrasheed Bawa, the journalist said that himself and the two other victims of the alleged fraudulent activities of the accused, were shocked that the presiding judge of Court 4 Warri in his judgment delivered on July 28, 2021 discharged the accused on the grounds that the prosecuting counsel failed to prove his case beyond every reasonable doubt in the criminal trial of the fraudster which lasted for four years.
Gloria Livingstone was arraigned in 2017 in charge No. W/33SC/2017 alongside one Mr Uzoma Lawrence now deceased, who was also accused on a four-count charge bordering on conspiracy and obtaining by false pretence.
The petitioner stated that the accused had used a member of their church who later died in mysterious circumstances when the trial commenced, to lure him to contribute money to fund a fraudulent contract she (accused) allegedly won with Chevron in Warri, promising to return the principal sum with interest on the agreed time but failed to do so.
The petitioner further stated that after many years of prolonged trial during which the EFCC prosecutor, Barrister Ikoh Mustapha presented three witnesses, the case was temporarily stalled as both the EFCC prosecutor and defence counsel became highly elusive during court sittings.
He said there is need to investigate the EFCC prosecuting counsel, Barr Ikoh Mustapha because of his glaring romance with the defence team in the course of the trial which led to obvious lapses, portrayed the lack of seriousness by the prosecutors.
The petitioner contended that with the weight of evidence against the accused defendant, no serious lawyer could have lost the case if not that the EFCC prosecutor allegedly compromised the process.
Nwabueze stated that on several court sessions the judge threatened to strike out the case because of the lackadaisical attitude of the prosecutor which became very annoying and glaring to the judge.
His word, “That on many occasions the prosecutor would not come to court and even when he comes he would let the defence counsel to have his way without any objection”, adding “even when the accused stopped appearing in court during the trial, the prosecuting counsel never made any serious move or asked the court to revoke her bail, rather he allowed it and sometimes would go the extent to beg the defence counsel after court sitting to try and bring the accused to court the next date ‘because the judge is not happy’”.
The petitioner further claimed that on one occasion, a witness was brought and the defence counsel insisted that he would not cross examine the witness who travelled all the way from Lagos to Warri, because he (defence counsel) claimed he was not feeling alright, saying that even at that the EFCC lawyer Barr Ikoh Mustapha and Barr Oni could not raise any objection.
That it took the intervention of the judge, who insisted that the defence counsel must cross examine the witness and in the process the judge foreclosed the defence counsel, while the EFCC lawyer remained dumb all throughout the show.
The petitioner also stated that following the petition to EFCC on how Gloria Livingstone allegedly defrauded him and others, the EFCC quickly blocked her Diamond bank account domiciled with the Warri branch and later discovered her Zenith bank account which contained huge amount of money believed to be the proceeds from the fraudulent contract job scheme.
The petitioner claimed that part of their money was actually found in the accused bank account, and that no effort was made by the EFCC Port Harcourt office to return the said monies to the victims at that point.
According to him, the trial was primed to end the way it ended because the prosecuting counsel suddenly became a friend to the accused and defence counsel, which he demonstrated in so many ways.
The petitioner therefore called on the EFCC boss to mandate the Port Harcourt office to file an appeal because allowing the judgment of the Warri High Court to stand would amount to gross miscarriage of justice and a slap on the anti-graft war.
“How can a thief who was caught with what he or she stole could be discharge and acquitted? What will happen to the two accounts that were blocked and the money in them? Mr Nwabueze asked rhetorically.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.