The Chief Magistrates Court sitting in Ini, Ini Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom state, has overruled the no-case submission filed by three, out of five accused persons, standing trial in the stealing of cassava, worth N10m from a farm, belonging to FEYReP, the pet project of the wife of Akwa Ibom State Governor, Dr Martha Emmanuel.
The presiding Judge, Senior Magistrate Edehe-Udim Akpabio, in his ruling, said the no-case submission was lacking in merit.
Counsel to the accused persons had filed a no-case submission, contending that the prosecution did not establish a prima facie case of conspiracy against them to defraud and stealing, contrary to Section 553, 407 and 408 of the Criminal Code, Laws of Akwa Ibom State, 2000.
In the case which is between the Commissioner of Police and the accused persons, the First Prosecution Witness had in his testimony, told the Court that he was informed by one of the accused that he saw when the three other accused persons harvested some cassava from the farmland in questionable circumstances.
The Court ruled that a no-case to answer can only be made and sustained when there has been no evidence to prove an essential element in the alleged offence; or that the evidence adduced by the prosecution has been so discredited, through the instrumentality of cross-examination or is so manifestly unreliable that no reasonable court could safely convict on the accused persons.
Senior Magistrate Edehe-Udim Akpabio, who cited the case of Ekwunugo and the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2008 and Section 288 of the Civil Procedure Law, Cap 38, Laws of Akwa Ibom State, 2000, held that what has to be considered at the stage of no-case submission is not whether the evidence against the accused person is sufficient to justify convict.
The Court said it is satisfied that the prosecution has established at least, some similitude of the elements in regards to the offence of conspiracy to commit felony and stealing that required the accused persons to offer some explanations.
While dismissing the no-case submission, the Magistrate called on the three accused Persons to enter their defense in line with section 289 of the Criminal Procedure Law, Laws of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, 2000.
After the ruling, the 5th accused person, Elizabeth Nsa Udo, a palm fruits dealer, gave her evidence as the second Defense Witness and was cross-examined by the Police Prosecutor, Inspector Mary Callistus.
The case has been adjourned to Monday, 25th of may for the continuation of defense.