The Kogi State High Court sitting in Lokoja has discharged and acquitted a former bursar with Kogi State College of Education, (Technical ), Kabba, Dr Usman Mohammed, accused of embezzling N88 million belonging to the institution.
Dr Mohammed, (first defendant) alongside Mr John Amobeda (Second defendant) stood trial on six-count charges for offences ranging from conspiracy to commit criminal breach of trust, criminal breach of trust, cheating, forgery, conspiracy to commit criminal misappropriation and criminal misappropriation.
The offences are punishable under sections 97(2), 315, 322, 364 and 309 of the Kogi State penal code.
Justice Esther Haruna in her judgement on 3rd April 2023 which was made available to journalists, held that in criminal trials, the burden always is on the prosecution to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt, saying the prosecution woefully failed to prove its case against the first and second defendant on each of the six-count charges.
Part of the court judgment reads; “As rightly submitted by the learned counsel to the first defendant, M. A. Akande, by the nature of the allegations, levied against the defendant is founded on documents.
“DW2 admitted this fact when he told the court in cross-examination that “the allegation of criminal breach of trust, manipulation of payroll and diversion of funds are supposed to be evidenced by documents.
“Exhibits P1 P2a to P2i were merely dumped on the court without linking them to the specific aspects of the prosecution’s case for which the documents were so tendered. The court in Okereke U. Umahi (2016); LPELR — 40035 (SC) held thus; any party tendering documentary evidence has a task of linking such documents to specific aspects of his case for which such documents so tendered by leading evidence of the purport of the document in relation to the aspect of his case.
“In other words, he should not merely dump them in the court or tribunal and expect the tribunal or court to embark on speculations in determining the purport for which it was tendered or to which aspect of the case such document relates, without being guided by any oral evidence led in open court.
“The defendants were said to have dishonestly manipulated the payroll of staff of the institution by inserting fictitious names to their advantage and diverted the sum of N88 million Naira entrusted to them to their own personal use.
“Curiously, the said payroll with the fictitious names was not tendered in proof of this charge by the prosecution. None of the invoices and other documents alleged to have been forged by the defendant(s) were tendered as proof of the charge of forgery. None of the essential ingredients of the above two charges of cheating and forgery was established.
“For the 1 and 2™ count charges of conspiracy to commit a breach of trust and criminal breach of trust, there is nothing in the whole gamut of the prosecution evidence to show that the amount of N88 million was entrusted to the defendants. From his (1st defendant) extra judicial statement exhibit 4a, the sum of N60 million was paid into the college account and he is not in the Governing Council that authorizes payments. He explained how N40 million was disbursed to pay contractors at the permanent site and N20 million was used also to pay contractors at the temporary site.
“The burden always is on the prosecution to establish the guilt of the accused beyond a reasonable doubt, it is not for the accused to prove his innocence. The 1st defendant in his statement said the sum of N2.8 million was transferred to his account for onward transmission to Mr. Bashir. The question that bothered my mind is, from where was the N2.8 million taken and added to their salary account? It should be borne in mind that there is no evidence to show that any N88 million was entrusted to the defendants.
“In exhibit 4e, the 1st defendant stated that all monies paid in by Amos Lawal that do not belong to Bashir are his genuine money which Amos transferred into his account. It is for the prosecution to clarify the doubt in the above prosecution evidence. It is not for the court to guess or conjecture but for the prosecution to establish the ingredients of the offences charged, particularly the first and second charges of conspiracy and criminal breach of trust, beyond a reasonable doubt. For the 5th and 6th charges of conspiracy and criminal misappropriation of N30,100,000.00, none of the ingredients of the offences was established by the prosecution.
Reacting to the judgement, the accused former Bursar, Usman Mohammed described the judiciary as the last hope of the common man, demanding that he be reinstated to Kogi State University which was the first place of the primary assignment before he was transferred to Kogi State College of Education, (Technical) Kabb.
Dr. Mohammed is also demanding the payment of all his unpaid arrears of half of his salaries from October 2014 to September 2015 amounting to N3,366,076.32k and the payment of arrears of his full salaries from October 2015 to December 2015, amounting to N1,683,038.16k.
He is also requesting the Kogi State Government through the institution to pay him arrears of his leave bonus for five years, amounting to N3,366,076.30 and also the release of his official vehicle which was seized alongside that of the provost, Oshadumo.
He claimed that while the Provost’s vehicle was released to him, his was not. ”Other principal officers went away with their cars except me” Mohammed said.
Recall that Dr. Mohammed was appointed the Bursar of the Kogi State College of Education, (Technical) Kabba on 16th July 2010 for a tenure of five years.
He was served a notice of suspension from office vide a letter with Ref. No; KGSCOET/REG/PS/033/32 dated 23rd October 2014 purportedly suspending him from office.