Alleged N1.1bn Fraud: Court Dismisses Charge against Former Customs Boss, Dikko

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By Alex Enumah

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Wednesday, dismissed the fraud charge brought against a former Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Mr Abdullahi Dikko, and two others by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).

The dismissal was sequel to an oral application for the withdrawal of the charge by the ICPC’s lawyer, Mr E. A. Sogunle.

Dikko was named in a fraud charge with former Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs in charge of Finance, Administration and Technical Services, Garba Makarfi, and a lawyer, Umar Hussaini.

They were accused of inducing the Managing Director of Cambial Limited, Yemi Obadeyi, to pay the sum of N1,100, 952,380.96 into the account of Capital Law Office as a refundable “completion security deposit” for the purchase of 120 units of duplexes as residential accommodation for officers of the Nigeria Customs Service.

The Prosecution had accused Hussaini of distributing the said sum into various other bank accounts allegedly at the instance of the Dikko.

Hussaini was also accused of receiving the sum of $3 million as reward in the deal.

When the matter came up on Wednesday, Sogunle told the court that, despite a bench warrant issued on Dikko, who has not attended court since the charge was filed early last year, the prosecution has not been able to arrest and produce the 1st defendant in court.

He said, at the last adjourned date, Dikko was conspicuously absent and the court mandated the prosecution to investigate his whereabouts.

“In our effort to do this, we wrote to the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), who replied that they have no record of the 1st defendant (Dikko) either travelling in or outside of Nigeria between January 2020 and till date.

“In the circumstances, we have filed an affidavit of compliance with the court’s directive that we find out his whereabouts. This affidavit is to show the steps we have taken so far.

“We do not want to clog the court’s docket with this matter. We are convinced that the 1st defendant is a fugitive from law. We are taking every steps to apprehend him. When we do that, we will bring him before the court.

“In the circumstance, we wish to withdraw the charge, pursuant to Section 108 of ACJA, without prejudice to whenever he is apprehended,” Sogunle said.

Responding, Dikko’s lawyer, Mr Solomon Akuma (SAN), did not object to the prosecution’s application to withdraw the charge.

Yakubu Maikyau (SAN) and A. H Obariko, who appeared for Makarfi and Hussaini, also did not object to the application to withdraw.

While Makarfi was in court, Hussaini was absent and his counsel said he could not make his way to Abuja from Bauchi in view of the current restriction of inter-state. movement.

The trial judge, Justice Ojukwu, after listening to submissions of counsel in the matter, dismissed the charge against Dikko, since the prosecution’s application for withdrawal of the said charge was not opposed by the defendants.

The judge had, on February 17, 2020, upon an application by the prosecution, issued a bench warrant for Dikko’s arrest and production for the purpose of his arraignment and further ordered the prosecution to ascertain the claim by Dikko’s lawyer that he was on admission in a London hospital.

It was in response to the court’s order that the prosecution ascertain whether or not Dikko was in a London hospital that Sogunle reported yesterday that the NIS informed his agency that the ex-custom boss has not travelled out of the country since this year.