By Davidson Iriekpen
Former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Adesola Amosun (rtd) and two senior serving Air Force officers have opted for plea bargain in their ongoing trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged corruption
Amosun and the two serving senior air force officers, Air Vice Marshal Adigun, Commodore Olugbenga and some companies were charged before the court on June 29, for the alleged offences.
The companies were Delfina Oil and Gas Limited, McAllan Oil and Gas Limited, Hebron Housing and Properties Company Limited, Trapezitrs Bureau De Change ((BDC), Fonds and Pricey Limited, Deegee Oil and Gas Limited, Timsegg Investment Limited, and Solomon Health Care Limited.
The accused persons were alleged to have committed the offences between March 5, 2014, and May 4, 2015.
The offences according to the EFCC are contrary to sections 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012, and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
They all pleaded not guilty to the charge.
At the resumed hearing of the case yesterday, the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, informed the court that the defendants had commenced a move to enter into a plea bargain with the federal government.
He tendered a draft copy of the terms of the plea bargain to the court, which he said he had served on the defendants.
But the defence counsel, comprising Mr. Norrison Quakers (SAN), Mr. Kemi Balogun (SAN), Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) and Mr. A. Etuokwu, informed the court that the business of the day was for report of compliance with the order of the court regarding the verification of the defendants’ bail conditions.
Quakers argued that though the defendants were the ones who broached the idea of a plea bargain, they needed to be out of the EFCC custody first before they would be able to negotiate properly with the prosecution.
“When a man is in a custodian environment, anything you want him to say, he’d say; anything you want him to do, he will do. We should not be stampeded or boxed into a corner,” Quakers said.
Noting that the draft copy of the plea bargain was only just served on the defence counsel on Friday (yesterday) morning, Quakers argued that defendants were entitled under Section 36(6) (b) of the 1999 Constitution to be given adequate time and facility to prepare their defence.
Also, Ayorinde and Etuokwu aligned with the argument and insisted that the order of the court on the bail of the defendants must first be complied with.
Opposing, EFCC lawyer insisted that the business of the day was for the trial to commence, noting that he had a witness ready in court.
He said it was not the making of the EFCC that the defendants were still in custody, despite the fact that the EFCC did not oppose their applications for bail, noting that the EFCC investigators sacrificed their holiday period to verify compliance with the bail conditions.
Oyedepo added that the defence counsel already had knowledge of the plea bargain terms and should either proceed with it or he was ready to open trial.
After prolonged arguments between the parties, Justice Idris, in a short ruling, ordered the EFCC to conclude the verification of the defendants’ bail conditions on or before Monday, July 11, 2016.
Justice Idris stated that he had noted from the draft plea bargain that negotiation was already ongoing between the state and the defendants and that the defendants had shown a “clear, positive and strong intention” to settle with the government.
He adjourned till September 12 and 13, 2016 for trial.
The three Air Force Officers and their companies were alleged to have converted N22.8 billions belonging to the Nigeria Air Force (NAF), to their personal use.
In one of the counts of the charge, the accused persons were alleged to have converted the sum of N21,467,634,707.43 billion, property of the Nigerian Air Force, which sum was derived from stealing, to their personal use.
They were also alleged to have between May 5, 2014 and 4 May 4, 2015 in Lagos, indirectly converted the sum of N5, 291, 306, 950.28 Billion, property of the Nigerian Air Force.
Amosu, Adigun and Olugbenga, were alleged to have between July 17, and September 16, 2014, used the British Pounds Sterling equivalent of sum of N663, 443,291 million, removed from the accounts of the Nigerian Air Force to purchase two properties situated at 50-52 Tenterden Grove, London (NW41TH) and 93B Shirehall Park, London NW4 2QU, United Kingdom.