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NAHCO Triumphs in Court  [12 Apr 18]

Foremost national ground handling service provider, NAHCO, on Tuesday at the Federal High Court in Lagos triumphed in a case that had lingered for more than 10 years in the Court.

Discharged and acquitted alongside NAHCO were Emirates Airlines, Pathfinder International Limited and other individuals.

The case bothered on alleged stolen four bags with tag numbers; EK 428682, EK 423683, EK650162 and EK 650161, one of which allegedly contained the sum of $1.630 million on December 19, 2007, at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport.

According to the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, “The only issue for determination is whether or not the prosecution has proved its case against the accused persons beyond reasonable doubts. The burden of proof is on the prosecution because the defendants are presumed innocent until the contrary is proved.”

In the judgement,Justice Idris held that the prosecution had failed to prove its case against the defendants beyond reasonable doubts, dashing the hope of the complainant, Prince Chu Ikem Orji, who had reported the case to the Police. The Police would throw caution to the wind at the time, and harassing the daylight out of diligent and dutiful NAHCO staff who were on duty on Emirate flight at the time.

The High Court noted with dismay that the petition written by Prince Chu Ikem Orji to lodge complaints about the missing money was contained in a letter-head of a legal practitioner without the lawyer’s name and signature. This was the same petition the Police acted upon.

Justice Idris also described the conspiracy offence slammed on the defendants as a fairytale, saying that there was no evidence suggesting such collusion. The court said the totality of the evidence of the prosecution does not support the offence of conspiracy.

In clearing the defendants of any complicity, Justice Idris said: “In my view, taking a hard look at this case, I hold that the prosecution has failed to prove any of the counts against each of the defendants. I therefore sustain a verdict of not guilty as charged and the defendants were all discharged and acquitted.”

According to NAHCO’s Legal Officer, Mr. Yusuf Shoetan, the case is a sweet victory forNAHCO. He stated, “After nine years of intense legal battle between the office of the Attorney General of the Federation and the defendants, the Federal High Court finally delivered its judgment on the 10th of April, 2018. The judgmentdeclared NAHCO and the other defendants innocent of all wrongdoing in the faceof the inability of the complainant to lead credible evidence to the contrary. Particularly, the complainant, suing through the Attorney General of the Federation could not prove the existence of the money alleged to have been stolen nor did it establish any collusion to support its allegation of conspiracy.”

Shoetan further explained that if this case had gone the otherway, the consequences would vary according to the charges. As for the theft allegation, NAHCO would have had to pay a fine which might be in the region of the sum allegedly stolen. The staff co-charged with NAHCO would have had to serve a jail term of up to two years as stipulated by Nigeria’s criminal laws.

But as it turned out, the professionalism of NAHCO and the exemplary diligence of the only staff who was eventually charged along with NAHCO, Segun Awonubi, stood out. NAHCO and Awonubi came out smelling like roses. There can be no better testament to unrivalled diligence and unparalleled quality service.

Although the complainant has 90 days to appeal against this decision if it so wishes; legal experts see the case from this point as largely academic. The judgement by Justice Idris stands on a solid ground. It will endure.