The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has adjourned till June 25 and 26, 2018 on N450 million campaign funds fraud case involving the duo of former Minister of national Planning, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman and Muhammed Dele Belgore (SAN).
This followed the submission by Belgore’s counsel, E. O Sofunde (SAN), before Justice Muhammed Rilwan Aikawa that since Sulaiman was not properly represented by a lawyer, there was need for an adjournment to enable him get a replacement which was accepted by the judge and case was adjourned accordingly.
However, Belgore’s application that a statement he made to the EFCC be produced was dismissed by Justice Aikawa.
The judge ruled that Belgore did not prove that he made that statement and accordingly his application was dismissed.
Belgore had specified that he made more than one statement on 27 December 27, 2016 but the EFCC did not produce all those statements in court.
He prayed the court to direct the EFCC to produce them as he requires them for his defense.
Also, Sulaiman, a former Minister for National Planning under the President Goodluck Jonathan administration had appeared in court without his counsel.
He informed the court that he has instructed a new counsel to act for him, but the new counsel informed him that he is otherwise engaged today with another EFCC matter. Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, representing the EFCC, nevertheless pressed the court for trial to continue.
Belgore’s counsel, E. O. Sofunde (SAN), replied that given what Sulaiman had told the court, the appropriate step to take was for the case to be adjourned so that his client can also be represented. The case was therefore adjourned to 25 and 26 June 2018.
Belgore and Sulaiman are facing charges relating to election funds for the last presidential election in 2015.
They are accused of taking possession of N450 million when they reasonably ought to have known that the funds were proceeds from an unlawful purpose and for disbursing those funds to various people. Both have pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The duo were on November 28, 2017, re-arraigned before the court by the anti-graft agency on an amended 9-count charge bordering on the alleged offence.
They however pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was read to them.
In the nine-count amended charge, the EFCC alleged that a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke (said to be at large) conspired with Belgore and Sulaiman on or about March 27, 2015, to directly take possession of the sum of N450 million, which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of proceeds of unlawful act.
The trio were also alleged to have taken the said funds in cash, which exceeded the amount authorised by law, without going through the financial institutions.
Belgore, Sulaiman and Madueke were also alleged to have paid the sum of N50 million to one, Sheriff Shagaya, without going through the banks.
They were equally accused of paying the sum of N10 million to one, Dr. Emmanuel Onucheyo, Resident Electoral Commissioners, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Kwara State, without going through any financial institution.
The EFCC also alleged that the trio paid N10 million to Garba Salihu, in violation of Sections 1(a), 16 (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act 2012 and punishable under Section 16 (2) (b) of the same Act.