The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has struck out money laundering charges involving the sum of N1.84 billion brought by the Federal Government against Colonel Nicholas Ashinze, a former Military Assistant to Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd.) and eight others.
Justice Okon Abang struck out the charges after the office the Attorney General of the Federation AGF withdrew the charges that the basis of the defendants unsuccessful trial in past seven years.
Recall that Colonel Nicholas Ashinze’s boss , Col. Sambo Mohammed Dasuki (rtd), a former National Security Adviser (NSA) to former President Goodluck Jonathan has also been on trial on corruption charges different from the case that was struck out.
While striking out the 13-count amended charges, Justice Abang discharged the nine defendants from the alleged corruption issue.
Although the Judge did not pronounce them acquitted, but by the decisions of Supreme Court of Nigeria in similar criminal cases , discharging defendants from criminal charges is tantamount to acquittal from the same charges.
Striking out a case essentially means that the charges against the defendants are dismissed and the case is terminated
In the instant case , where the Attorney General of the Federation terminated the case and the court struck out the charges the defendants are no longer subject to criminal prosecution for the same charges in that particular case.
Justice Abang held that no court of law can question the exercise of AGF’s powers, under Section 174 (1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended), to take over or terminate any matter before any court of law.
Counsel to the Federal Government, Mr David Kaswe had applied for withdrawal of the charges apparently acting on the instructions of the AGF, Malam Abubakar Malami, SAN.
Ashinze (1st defendant) was standing trial alongside an Austrian, Wolfgang Reinl; Edidiong Idiong and Sagir Mohammed listed as 2nd to 4th defendants respectively.
Other defendants in the case are five companies: Geonel Integrated Services Limited, Unity Continental Nigeria Limited, Helpline Organisation, Vibrant Resource Limited and Sologic Integrated Service Limited listed as 5th to 9th defendants respectively.
They were re-arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 13-count money laundering charge.
The amended charge, dated October 3, 2017, was filed on October. 6, 2017.
The money was said to have emanated from the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) where Ashinze served as Special Assistant.
The nine defendants had at the commencement of the trial, pleaded not guilty to all the charges preferred against them.
In the course of the trial, EFCC through its counsel, Mr Ofem Uket had called seven witnesses during the seven years the case lasted in the court.
Sources in the Federal Ministry of Justice said that the case file had been reviewed severally and found out that the charges against the defendants cannot be sustained, hence, the decision to terminate it.