By Kingsley Nwezeh
The Lagos Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday re-arraigned a former acting Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Haruna Baba Jauro; Dr. Dauda Bitrus Bawa and a company, Thlumbau Enterprises Limited, before Justice C.A. Obiozor of the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos State, on a 19-count charge bordering on stealing and money laundering to the tune of N304, 118, 500.
The defendants were first arraigned on April 12, 2016, before retired Justice Mojisola Olatoregun of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos.
Earlier in the proceedings, counsel to the defendants, Olalekan Ojo (SAN), told the court that the third defendant, Thlumbau Enterprises Limited had written a letter dated November 6, 2020, notifying the court of the appointment of one Baba Haruna Salome, who is its secretary, as its representative in the trial in accordance with Section 478 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015.
Ojo also told the court of another letter by Salome dated November 6, 2020, and filed on November 9, 2020.
According to him, “The purpose of the letter is to enable the aforesaid representative of the third defendant to communicate to the court the third defendant’s plea of not guilty to the charge preferred against it.”
He further told the court that he was in receipt of the copies of the letters and that the original copies had been lodged with the court’s registrar.
Thereafter, the Judge ordered the defendants to take their pleas.
One of the counts read: “That you, Haruna Baba Jauro, Dr Dauda Bitrus Bawa and Thlumbau Enterprises Limited, on or about the 6th day of January 2014 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did conspire among yourselves to commit an offence to wit: conversion of the sums of N156, 477,500 property of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, knowing that the said sums were proceeds of stealing, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) ( Amendment) Act 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”
Another count read: “That you, Haruna Baba Jauro, Dr. Dauda Bitrus Bawa and Thlumbau Enterprises Limited on or about the 6th day of January 2014 in Lagos, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did conspire among yourselves to commit an offence to wit: conversion of the sums of N15,000,000.00 property of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, knowing that the said sums were proceeds of stealing, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 ( 1) Money Laundering ( Prohibition) ( Amendment) Act 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge when it was read to them.
In view of their pleas of not guilty, the prosecution counsel, U.U. Buhari, asked the court for a trial date and to remand the defendants in the Nigerian Correctional Service Custodial Centre
The defence counsel, in his response, appealed to the Judge to allow the defendants to continue to enjoy the bail previously granted by Justice Olatoregun pending the commencement of trial.
According to him, “My Lord, the defendants will continue to attend the trial, even if it will last more than one day, because we really want to put the matter behind us.”
After listening to both parties, Justice Obiozor held that the “defendants shall continue to enjoy the bail earlier granted them on the same terms.”
The case was adjourned till March 17, 18, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 29, and April 6, 2021, for commencement of trial.