by ISE-OLUWA IGE
Federal Government, yesterday, arraigned former Governor of Bayelsa State and member of Jonathan/Buhari Transition Committee, Timipre Sylva, before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja over alleged misappropriation of N6.46 billion public fund.
The government, in a six-count charge preferred against him, alleged that Sylva and others now at large, committed the offence between October 2009 and February 2010.
For the sixth time, the former governor pleaded not guilty to each of the counts as read out to him by the court registrar. Yesterday was the second time in three years when Sylva would be dragged to court over the same charges.
Former judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Bello, had commenced the trial of Sylva before he retired from the bench. The case file was thereafter returned to the chambers of the Federal High Court chief judge who re-assigned it to Justice Elvis Chukwu for a de novo trial of Sylva.
The trial judge, Justice Chukwu, after taking the pleas of the ex-governor, asked the Federal Government to call its witnesses. But the government pleaded for a short adjournment to file all necessary documents and arrange its witnesses to testify in the matter.
The request for adjournment did not go down well with the trial judge who said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, was fond of accusing the judiciary of failing to sit in high profile cases. Justice Chukwu told the government that it must call its witnesses for trial to start.
But the government insisted on a short adjournment to enable it put its house in order which the trial judge later agreed to. Counsel to Sylva, Mr. Israel Olorundare, SAN, however applied that his client continue on the bail granted him by Justice Bello, noting that he had always made himself available in court for trial and the EFCC anytime he was needed.
Olorundare also told the court that his client’s international passport was already with the deputy chief registrar of the Federal High Court and that he would be available for trial.
The trial judge upheld his argument and ordered that he continues on the old bail conditions even as he ordered that the international passport of the ex-governor must be recovered from the deputy chief registrar of the court and kept with his registrar. He also fixed next Monday for commencement of the trial.
In the charge, the former governor and others were accused of fraudulently obtaining N4 billion loans from Union Bank. The loans were allegedly obtained under the guise of using them to augment workers’ salaries.
The EFCC also alleged that the accused persons had in the same period converted properties and resources of Bayelsa State government, amounting to N2 billion into personal use.
The accused persons were also alleged to have converted N380 million worth of government property through a Fin Bank account No. 221433478108 belonging to one Habibu Maigida, a Bureau De Change operator on January 22, 2010 for personal use.
The EFCC further said Sylva and his accomplices had on February 5, 2010, converted N50 million of the state’s funds through a First Bank account number 6152030001946 belonging to Enson Benmer Ltd, also for personal use.
The anti-graft agency had said that the offences contravened the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act) 2004.
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