By Alex Enumah in Abuja
The Acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu, has written to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Samuel Onnoghen, requesting that all EFCC court cases being handled by Justice Binta Nyako of a Federal High Court Abuja, be reassigned to another judge in a bid to obtain fair judgment.
A Prosecuting Counsel with the commission, Onjefu Obe, made the disclosure on November 21, 2018 during the trial of Umar Audu Bida, Truth Igogori, Ifenyinwa Nwankwesiri and Ogechukwu Obaji, who are being prosecuted by the EFCC over their alleged complicity in a $1m fraud.
According to a statement from the EFCC, Obe, told the court that the concern of the Commission to reassign all EFCC cases before Justice Nyako, borders on likely bias on the part of the trial judge, considering the fact that the EFCC was also prosecuting her husband, Murtala Nyako, a former Adamawa State governor for alleged fraud.
The EFCC had in 2017 arraigned the defendants before Justice Nyako on a nine-count charge bordering on conspiracy, forgery and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of $1m. They allegedly defrauded Donald Latella of North Park LLC of the said sum in a business deal involving the supply of about two million barrels of Bonny Light Crude Oil.
The offence contravenes Section 8 (b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 1 (3) of the same Act.
They were arraigned alongside four companies: Universal Contractors, Lambda Energy Services Limited, Double Wonder Concept Limited, and ICS Energy Services Limited.
They had pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.
Obe said he had come to court fully prepared with the prosecution witnesses to proceed with the case. But unfortunately, the case (FHC/ABJ/C12/ 266/16), was not listed in the court’s schedule for the day as it is yet to be reassigned to another court.
Counsel for the second defendant, Solomon Agada, also lamented that his client usually travels from Lagos to Abuja for the case. He therefore urged the court to intervene and called for the speedy reassignment of the case in order for the case to proceed.
Both counsels however agreed to await the reassignment of the case and thereafter mutually agree on the next possible adjournment.
Meanwhile, the EFCC has arraigned one Engineer Ibrahim Babbaji, Coordinating Director, Guara Water Management Authority, and four others over a fraud of N48m only. They were arraigned before Justice Aliyu Yusuf of FCT High Court 25, Maitama Abuja.
Others arraigned with Babbaji were Mohammed Admin Sadiq, Legal Adviser, Guara Water Management Authority; Oba Justine, Head of Administration; Chorio Wonkan Philips, Salary Officer, National Lottery Trust Fund,p and Segun Odetoyinbo, Estate Surveyor and Valuer.
Their prosecution, according to a statement from the EFCC, followed a petition that Management Staff of Guara Water Management Authority, an agency under the Federal Ministry of Water Resources, connived with the owner of a rented apartment located at Utako District, Abuja and inflated the rent from N21m to N48m.
According to the petitioner, a two-year rent of N98m had been applied for, with approval granted for half of the money. The money was thereafter released and disbursed by the defendants.
Upon receipt of the petition, the EFCC swung into action to investigate the allegation.
They were arraigned on a six-count charge bordering on conspiracy and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of N49m. The alleged offence was committed sometimes in November 2012 in Abuja.
They pleaded “not guilty” to the charges. In view of their plea, prosecuting counsel, Yetunde Alabi, thereafter, prayed the court for a date for trial to commence in view of their plea.
Counsel for the second defendant, Victor Awal, however, told the court that he had filed an application for bail on behalf of his client.
“The application is dated November 21 and filed on the 22 November 2018, and it is brought pursuant to Section 162 of ACJA and Section 36 and 35(1) of the Nigeria Constitution and the application is to admit my client to bail,” Awal said.
Counsel for the fifth defendant, Adetola Olulenu, also moved the motion for the bail application of his client.
Counsel for the fourth defendant, F.P. Chorio, also applied for bail of his client urging the court to admit his client to bail “on liberal terms, since he had been on administrative bail”.
Justice Aliyu Yusuf, thereafter, admitted the second, fifth and fourth defendants to bail, ordering them to produce two reasonable sureties each, who must produce N20m bond each, while the first and third defendants be remanded in Suleja Prison pending their bail application .
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