Bennett Oghifo
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has appealed against the judgment of Justice Bello Mohammed Tukur of Zamfara State High Court sitting in Gusau, based on the no-case submission entered by the former Governor of Zamfara State, Ahmed Rufai Sani, in an ongoing case of alleged diversion of public funds.

A statement yesterday by the spokesperson for the commission, Mrs. Rasheedat A. Okoduwa, said: “The judge had ruled against ICPC in a no case submission entered by the former governor of Zamfara State, Sani, in an ongoing case of alleged diversion of public funds, on the major plank that the ex-governor was not a ‘public officer’ while in office.”
The statement said former governor had been charged alongside Hashim A. Dikko, Development Management Limited and Had Nigeria Limited.

In his ruling, Justice Tukur who discharged all the defendants stated that, “it is a natural consequence of the finding that the 1st defendant (Ahmed Rufai Sani) is not a public officer. Not being a public officer, the 1st defendant could not be said or found to have used the public office status that is not available to him to confer any advantage upon another.”

ICPC also appealed against the ruling on the ground that the trial judge did not limit himself to the evidence laid before him by the prosecution.

The judge said, “…considering the position of the 1st defendant as the Governor of Zamfara State at the material time in a civilian government that of necessity must operate an open door policy, it is not out of place for a governor to meet with people intending to do genuine business and to hold tentative or exploratory discussions. To dismiss or condemn such meetings or discussions as illegal or unlawful would in the view of this court unduly hinder the ability of a governor of state to effectively administer a government…”

The commission had earlier charged Sani and the three other defendants on a 19-count charge of alleged diversion of N464,820,189.24 out of N1billion loan allocated for the repair of the collapsed Gusau dam to other services contrary to S 22 (5) of the ICPC Act 2000.

The section states: “Any public officer who transfers or spends any sum allocated for a particular project, or service, on any other project, or service, shall be guilty of an offence under this Act”.
According to the statement, “They were discharged on all the charges on a no-case submission made by their defence counsel. ICPC is therefore asking the Court of Appeal sitting in Sokoto to set aside the ruling and order the defendants to start their defence of the case before another judge of the High Court of Zamfara State.”