Judge Insists DSS Must Comply with Court Orders before Trial of Suspect Can Start


Tobi Soniyi in Abuja

The Department of State Services (DSS) has again disobeyed an order of a Federal High Court granting bail to a member of the Presidential Committee investigating procurement of arms and equipment in the Armed Forces, Air Commodore Umar Mohammed.

This was disclosed monday by his lawyer, Hassan Liman (SAN) while objecting to an application by the prosecutor, Mr. Labaran Magaji, to commence Mohammed’s trial.

Mohammed, 54, was arraigned in September for alleged money laundering with his company, Easy Jet Integrated Services Limited, before Justice John Tsoho, on a four-count amended charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/145/16.
Yesterday, when the trial resumed the trial judge was told that the DSS had yet to comply with the court’s order granting bail to the accused person.

The judge consequently declined the request by the prosecutor to commence the trial.
The judge had at the last hearing granted Mohammed bail and ordered among others, that he should be remanded in prison custody until he is able to meet the bail conditions.

Yesterday, prosecution lawyer, Labaran Magaji had indicated the state’s readiness to commence trial.
But, lead defence lawyer, Hassan Liman (SAN), objected to the commencement of trial on the grounds that the court’s previous order had not been complied with by the prosecution.

He told the judge that the accused person was still being held by the DSS despite a court order that he should be admitted to bail or transfer to prison.

Liman told the court that the prosecution did not transfer the defendant to prison as ordered by the court and had also refused to release him even after meeting the bail conditions.
The prosecutor did not deny the claims by the defence counsel.

Upon being informed that the defendant was still being held in DSS’ custody, Justice Tsoho said he would not subscribe to the commencement of trial when his earlier orders had not been complied with.
He said there was no way the prosecution could be talking of the commencement of trial when it was yet to comply with court’s pending orders.

He subsequently adjourned to December 19 for the prosecution to comply with the order releasing Mohammed upon meeting the bail conditions.

A similar incident had played out before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba (also of the Federal High Court, Abuja) before whom Mohammed and his company were earlier arraigned in July.

Justice Dimgba granted Umar bail at N100m, with two sureties at N50m each, who could be a private citizen or public officer, with landed property in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

Mohammed met the bail conditions, but the DSS refused to release him or transfer him to prison custody as ordered by the court.

The judge, who was angered by the refusal of the DSS to comply with his orders elected not to take any further steps in the case until his orders were obeyed.

His house was also raided by operatives of DSS on October 9.
The case remained stalled until it was later re-assigned to Justice Tsoho’s court by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.

Mohammed and his company are charged with money laundering, illegal possession of firearms and violation of Official Secret Act.

They were said to have accepted $1,030,000 in cash from a firm, Worldwide Consortium PTY Ltd “as payment for flight services without going through a financial institution as required by law.

They are said to have committed the offence of money laundering contrary to sections 18 (a) and 16(1)(d) of the Money Laundering Act 2011 and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the Act.

Mohammed is accused of being in illegal possession of two pump action guns (marked: SBSG Magnum 397 and SBGS Interpress 09-1573) between June 1, 2011 and June 19, 2016 without valid licenses and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 4 of the Firearms Act 2004 and punishable under Section 27(1)(b)(i) of the act.

He is also accused of having in his possession, at his No: 4 Lungi Close, Mississippi, Maitama, Abuja home, “classified/official documents without lawful authority and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(1)(b) of the Official Secret Act and punishable under Section 7(1)(a) of the same Act.”