- Re-arraigns Oronsaye, five others for N2bn fraud
Senator Iroegbu in Abuja
Operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) wednesday evening stormed the Abuja home of a former Governor of Jigawa State, Saminu Turaki, in connection with the alleged embezzlement of N36 billion while in office.
According to sources at the commission, the neighbours of the former senator claimed they spotted the operatives at the 16 Dennis Osadebe Street, Apo home of the former governor at about 7p.m. wednesday but it was not clear what their mission was or whether the former governor was arrested by the operatives.
However, another source at the EFCC confirmed the raid but said the team missed the former governor as only a few members of the family were found in the house.
The source explained that the operatives went to the house in a bid to execute a warrant for the arrest of the former governor who had refused to present himself for trial since 2011 when he was rearranged on a 36-count charge at the Federal High Court Dutse, Jigawa State.
The source maintained that the commission had long being on the trail of the former senator and even had him watch-listed, but “he has continued to evade arrest.”
A Federal High Court in Dutse, the Jigawa State capital, had issued a warrant directing the Inspector General of Police or his officers and the EFCC to arrest Turaki and bring him before the court.
The Justice S. Yahuza, it was reported, gave the order after Turaki failed to appear before the court, with the EFCC previously declaring him wanted.
The commission is prosecuting the former governor over a N36 billion theft and money laundering crime he allegedly committed when he was governor.
Some of the charges read to the accused person by the court under presiding Justice Shehu Yahaya, included the N12 billion withdrawn from the state government treasury for the financing of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s third term mission.
Turaki was first arraigned by the EFCC before the Federal Capital Territory High Court in 2007 on a 32-count charge of misappropriating N36 billion while he was governor.
The case was later transferred to Federal High Court, Dutse after he challenged the jurisdiction of the FCT Court to hear the matter.
Meanwhile, the EFCC wednesday re-arraigned the former Head of Service of the Federation (HoSF), Mr. Stephen Oronsaye, before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of a Federal High Court in Abuja on an amended 35-count charge bordering on stealing and obtaining money by false pretense.
The Head of Media and Publicity, EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said in the amended charge dated November 2, 2015, Oronsaye is being charged along with Osarenkhoe Afe, Fedrick Hamilton Global Services Limited, Cluster Logistic Limited, Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited, and Drew Investment and Construction Company Limited.
Uwujaren noted that while Oronsaye and Afe, who is the Managing Director of Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited, were present in court, the other defendants were absent.
Meanwhile, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Leke Atolagbe, while citing Section 478 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, said: “We urge your lordship to enter a plea of not guilty for the defendants who are not represented in court so that the trial can proceed.”
Counsel to Oronsaye, Joe Agbi (SAN), raised no objections to the application of the prosecution, neither did Oluwole Aladedoye, counsel to Afe and Fedrick Hamilton Global Services Limited.
The trial judge, while acceding to the application of the prosecution, ruled that: “In the absence of the fourth, fifth and sixth defendants, Section 478 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 shall be applied to each of them, except if it is later shown that they were not served with the amended charges, in the interest of justice.”
Count one of the charges reads: “That you Stephen Oronsaye, Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina (now at large) Osarenkhoe Afe and Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited on or aboutJuly 2, 2010, in Abuja, collaborated in disguising genuine nature of the sum of N161,472,000 derived from an illegal act to wit; conducting procurement fraud by means of fraudulent and corrupt act on the contract extension of biometric enrolment purportedly awarded to Innovative Solutions Limited by the Office of the HOSF without following due process and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 14 (1) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.”
Another count reads: “That you Stephen Oronsaye and Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina (now at large) between April and May 2010 in Abuja, collaborated in disguising genuine nature an aggregate sum of N131,038,425 derived from an illegal act to wit; conducting procurement fraud by means of fraudulent and corrupt act on the contract of biometric enrolment purportedly awarded to Moshfad Enterprises by the Office HOSF without following due process and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 14 (1) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.” Afterwards, the accused pleaded “not guilty” to the charges as they were read to them.
Following their plea, Atolagbe asked the court for a date for commencement of trial, and also notified the court that the prosecution had 22 witnesses it intended to present in court.
But the defence counsel expressed readiness for the commencement of the trial, and further applied that Justice Kolawole should allow their clients to continue with the earlier bail granted them on July 21, 2015.
To this end, the prosecution did not raise any objections to the oral application.
In view of the fact that there was no objection to the application, the trial judge acceded to the request and further adjourned to June 9, 2016 for “commencement of judicial trial.”
Oronsaye had first appeared before Justice Kolawole on July 13, 2015, where he was confronted with a 25-count charge, to which along with his co-defendants, they pleaded not guilty. The trial judge had fixed February 16, 2016, for them to enter their plea for the amended charges.
The case file was however, later transferred to Justice J. T. Tsoho of a Federal High Court, Abuja. Presiding over the case for the first time on February 16, 2016, he adjourned to March 1, 2016 for them to take their plea on the amended charges. On that day, however, rather than begin the proceedings, he simply said: “It has been realised that the case came to me in error, and I’ve been instructed that it should be returned to Justice Kolawole who started it. He should continue where he stopped. I wish you the best of luck.”
Making clarification on the return of the file to him, Justice Kolawole explained that: “The Chief Judge wanted to redistribute cases to new judges transferred to the Federal High Court in order to decongest the court, but this case file of Oronsaye was taken in error to Justice Tsoho. This explanation becomes necessary so that the public will not be wondering why such back and forth movement.”