Alex Enumah in Abuja
The immediate-past Governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar has explained before a Federal High in Abuja why he paid out the sum of N8.5 billion on May 27, 2019, two days to his exit from office.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja, had on August 5, 2019 ordered the freezing of an account of the Bauchi State Government domiciled in First City Monument Bank (FCMB).
The order was sequel to an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to enable it conclude investigation of fraud and money laundering to the tune of N19.9 billion involving some persons, including the immediate-past governor of Bauchi State, Mohammed Abubakar.
Abubakar’s explanation was contained in an application he filed before the court, seeking to be joined in a suit instituted by the EFCC for probe of the disbursement of some funds belonging to the state.
In his explanation, the former governor said the amount which formed part of the probe by the anti-graft agency, was paid to contractors, who according to him, executed various infrastructure projects for Bauchi State under his watch.
He further said that the N8.5 billion was paid to the same day the money was received from the Central Bank of Nigeria on the order of the federal government as refund for jobs done for the federal government.
The application for joinder filed on August 16, 2019 by his lawyer, Murtala Abdul-Rasheed was supported by an 18-paragraph affidavit deposed to by one Olamilekan Adebayo.
Abubakar said that the state government under his leadership had executed some infrastructural projects on behalf of the federal government to the tune of N14.6 billion and that the refund for the jobs by the federal government did not come until May 27, when he was about handing over to his successor. The ex-governor explained that immediately the N14.6 billion entered the state government’s operational account number: 0998552074 domiciled at First City Monument Bank on May 27, a schedule of payment was prepared and executed to the tune of N8.9 billion as sundry payment and upon approval of the outgoing state executive council under his watch.
Abubakar however alleged that the probe of the N8.5 billion disbursement and other transaction with the bank account by EFCC was allegedly at the instance of the current Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)-led administration under Alhaji Bala Mohammed, as part of efforts to rubbish and diminish the legacies of his government.
He urged the court to include him as party in the suit to enable him defend himself.
However, in a strong objection to his application for joinder, the EFCC in an 18-paragraph counter affidavit urged the court to disregard the application on the grounds that the proper parties to the suit are the Bauchi State Government and First City Monument Bank, adding that the ex-governor cannot be personally affected directly or indirectly by the outcome of the suit.
The anti-graft agency, in the counter-affidavit deposed to by one of its staff, Mohammed Abdullahi, asserted that contrary to the claims of the ex-governor that contractors were paid the sum, the 21 FCMB cheques used in paying out the money were issued in the name of the manager of the bank and that by investigation so far, contracts contained in the schedule of payment approved by the ex-governor were not executed.
The EFCC therefore prayed the court to dismiss the application for joinder on the grounds that the probe of the disbursement has nothing to do with personality and politics of the ex-governor.
Meanwhile, when the case was called yesterday, Justice Nkeonye Maha, one of the vacation judges of the Federal High Court, Abuja, referred the case file to Justice Taiwo Taiwo, who had earlier granted an interim order in respect of the suit and adjourned hearing to September 10.
Justice Taiwo, in granting the application marked FHC/ABJ/CS/858/2019, made an order “empowering the chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission or any other officer of the commission to instruct the Managing Director of the First City Monument Bank to freeze the bank account details stated as: “Account name: Bauchi State Government Operational Account number: 0998552074. Bank name: First City Monumental Bank.”
The court also ordered the two respondents to the application, Bauchi State Government and FCMB, to show cause why the money should be handed over to them within 21 days.
It equally ordered that the commission must give a progress report of its investigation at the next hearing date.