- Set to close case against ex-minister, Moro, others
Tobi Soniyi and 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.
This is coming as the EFCC is about concluding its case in the prosecution of former Minister of Interior, Abbah Moro and three others, being tried in relation to the 2014 botched recruitment exercise of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), which resulted in the death of some Nigerians.
Prosecuting Counsel with the commission, Onjefu Obe, made the disclosure on Wednesday 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 $1 million 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, bothers 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 bothering on conspiracy, forgery and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of $1 million. 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.
According to Obe, he had come to court fully prepared with the prosecution witnesses to proceed with the case. But very unfortunately, the case (FHC/ABJ/C12/ 266/16), was not listed in the court’s schedule for today as it is yet to be reassigned to another court.
Counsel to the second defendant, Solomon Agada, also expressed his dissatisfaction 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 the Coordinating Director, Guara Water Management Authority, Ibrahim Babbaji, and four others over a fraud of N48 million. They were arraigned before Justice Aliyu Yusuf of FCT High Court in Abuja.
Others arraigned with Babbaji were Mohammed Admin Sadiq, Legal Adiviser, Guara Water Management Authority; Oba Justine, Head of Administration; Chorio Wonkan Philips,
Salary Officer, National Lotte-ry Trust Fund 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 N21 million to N48 million.
According to the petitioner, a two-year rent of N98 million 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 N49 million. 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 to the fifth defendant, Adetola Olulenu, also moved the motion for the bail application of his client.
Counsel to 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 N20 million bond each, while the first and third defendants be remanded in Suleja Prison pending their bail application. The matter was adjourned to January 22, 2019.
Meanwhile, the EFCC is about concluding its case in the prosecution of former Minister of Interior, Abbah Moro and three others, being tried in relation to the 2014 botched recruitment exercise of the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), which resulted in the death of some Nigerians.
Moro is being tried alongside a former Permanent Secretary in the Interior Ministry, Mrs. Anastasia Daniel-Nwobia, an ex-director in the ministry, Felix Alayebami and a firm, Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited.
The defendants are, in the charge numbered FHC/ABJ/CR/42/2016, accused of defrauding 675, 675 graduate applicants of about N675,675,000 having been made to pay N1000 each as processing fees for 5,000 (five thousand) job openings.
The four defendants were also accused of breaching the Public Procurement Act, No. 65 of 2007 in the award of the contract for the organisation of the recruitment test to Drexel Tech Nigeria Ltd.
When the case came up on Wednesday, the prosecutor lawyer from the prosecuting agency, Mrs. Elizabeth Alabi, announced that the prosecution had called nine witnesses and planned to call two more to close its case.
Alabi told the court that the prosecution would not be able to proceed as planned on Wednesday because its 10th witness, Isah Joshua (an operative of the EFCC) called to informed her that he lost his father on Tuesday. She sought a fresh date.
“My Lord, the matter is for continuation of hearing. However, our prepared witness, Isah Joshua, just called that his father died around 8pm on Tuesday.
“So far, we have called nine witnesses. This witness was to be our 10th witness. We just have two more to go. He is an investigative officer. He is coming to tender the statement of the defendants,” Alabi said.
The court also could not hear a motion by Mrs. Daniel-Nwobia, for the release of her international passport, to enable her travel to the United Kingdom on medical grounds.
Alabi said she was not aware of the motion when Mrs. Daniel-Nwobia’s lawyer, James Odiba informed the court about the motion and his willingness to move it.
The trial judge, Justice Nmandi Dimgba noted that the motion was not properly served on the EFCC.
The judge noted that the motion was served on the Commission’s Asset Recovery Management Directorate, as against the Legal Department.
When the judge sought his view, lawyer to Moro, A. T. Kehinde (SAN) said he was served with the motion, but noted that the appropriate office to serve the prosecution should be at the EFCC’s Legal Department.
He suggested that, since a lawyer was in court for the prosecution, the motion should be served on the lawyer and a date taken for its hearing.
Other lawyers in the case, agreed with the suggestion, following which the judge adjourned to December 4 for continuation of trial.