Posted By: AYO ESAN
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has renewed its effort in the war against corruption as in the last two months five former governors namely, Sule Lamido of Jigawa State; Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State, Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State , Chimaroke Nnamani of Enugu State and Timpire Sylva of Bayelsa State are being prosecuted for corruption in various courts.
Former governor of Jigawa state, Sule Lamido, his two sons Aminu and Mustapha and one Aminu Wada Abubakar are to remain in prison till September 28, 2015. They were remanded in prison custody last Thursday by Justice Evelyn Anyadike of the Federal High Court sitting in Kano after they were docked on a 28-count charge of corruption and money laundering brought against them by the EFCC.
They were arraigned alongside four companies where the Lamidos are believed to have interest. The companies are Bamaina Holdings Limited, Bamiana Company Nigeria Limited, Bamaina Aluminum Limited and Speeds International Limited.
Lamido according to EFCC is said to have abused his position as governor of Jigawa State between 2007 and 2015, by awarding contracts to companies where he has interest, using his two sons, Aminu and Mustapha as front.
One of the counts in the charge reads, “That you Alhaji Sule Lamido ( while being the Governor of Jigawa State, Nigeria), Aminu Sule Lamido, Mustapha Sule Lamido, Bamaina Holdings Limited, Bamaina Company Nigeria Limited and Speeds International Limited between 15th October and 18th December, 2008 within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did convert an aggregate sum of N 124, 649, 915 ( One Hundred and Twenty Four Million, Six Hundred and Forty Nine Thousand, Nine Hundred and Fifteen Naira) paid by Dantata & Sawoe Limited into the account of Speeds International Limited domiciled with an old generation Bank at Kano which fund you reasonably ought to have known to be proceeds of an unlawful act of Alhaji Sule Lamido who was a Public Officer within the meaning of the Code of Conduct for Public Officers as prescribed under the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 ( as amended ) to wit; engaging in private business by a public officer, using the said company in which he is a director and a shareholder, and to whose account he is a signatory; with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the said sum and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 14 (A) of the Money Laundering Act, 2004.”
However when the charges were read to the accused persons they pleaded not guilty. Their counsel, Offiong Offiong, SAN told the court that he had filed application for bail and urged the court to consider granting the accused persons bail. But prosecuting counsel, Chile Okoroma, requested for time to respond to the application. He prayed the court to remand the accused persons in prison custody as the EFCC holding facilities in Abuja and Kano were already overstretched.
Justice Anyadike consequently remanded the accused persons in prison custody pending consideration of their bail application and adjourned to September 28, 2015.
The travails of the Lamidos began in 2012 when one of his sons, Aminu was arrested by Operatives of the EFCC at the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano for failing to declare a sum of $40,000. He was prosecuted and convicted; with 50 per cent of the undeclared sum forfeited to the Federal Government.
But the investigation into the source of the funds led investigators into the closely guarded web of corruption and money laundering involving members of the former first family of Jigawa State and their cronies
Former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, who is being prosecuted by the EFCC, before Justice A. F. Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on a fresh 50- count charge bordering on stealing and money laundering, came up for hearing on Thursday, July 9, 2015.
Sylva is being charged alongside Francis Okokuro, Gbenga Balogun, and Samuel Ogbuku. They allegedly used three companies – Marlin Maritime Limited, Eat Catering Services Limited, and Haloween-Blue Construction and Logistics Limited for moving over N19.2 billion from Bayelsa State coffers between 2009 and 2012.
Justice A. R. Mohammed of the Federal High Court Abuja had on June 10, 2015 dismissed the 42-count charge of stealing earlier brought against Sylva and his co-accused by the EFCC, with the excuse that the prosecution’s application to consolidate the charges before him, against the defendants, amounted to an abuse of court process.
The Commission however, faulted the ruling on the grounds that it was premature as the accused persons had not even taken any plea before the court, and subsequently filed the fresh 50 count charge at the Federal High Court.
At the last adjourned date, June 25, 2015, the trial judge had fixed July 9, 2015 for hearing on pending applications by the defendants challenging the competence of the charges and the jurisdiction of the court.
Counsel to Sylva, L. O. Fagbemi (SAN) had brought an application before the court praying that the charges be quashed; another application by Ochu Chukwuma, counsel to the third accused, also urged the court to dismiss the charges arguing that they were based on same facts in the earlier dismissed charges by Justice Mohammmed. Ajayi Olowo, counsel to the fourth accused person had also filed a preliminary objection, challenging the jurisdiction of the court, to hear the case.
Counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), argued that there was indeed a prima facie case against Sylva and his co-accused, adding that the court had jurisdiction to try the case since the offences committed took place in Abuja. Jacobs stressed that the applications of the counsel to the accused persons were “thoroughly misconceived”, adding that “charges dismissed by Justice Mohammed had not even been read to the accused persons, and they had not even taken their pleas, thus trial had not even commenced before the judge dismissed the charges.”
Justice Ademola, after listening to all the arguments, deferred ruling on the applications for a later date.
Nyako and his son, Abdulazis, appeared before the Federal High Court in Abuja last Wednesday. Their bid to be admitted on bail, based on an application filed by their counsel, Chief Kanu Godwin Agabi (SAN) failed.
Nyako and his sons are accused of converting huge sums of money, including N240 million of state funds to develop the Hill View Estate in Mpape, Abuja, between October 2011 and June 2012, among other charges.
If the accused are found guilty, the offences are punishable under Section 15 subsection 1A of the money laundering Prohibition Act, 2011. While Ohakim, Lamido and Nnamani served as governors under the auspices of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nyako was one of the aggrieved PDP governors that jumped ship to form the New PDP, which formed the bedrock for the merger that birthed the All Progressives Congress (APC).
A Federal High Court also ordered that former Governor Ikedi Ohakim of Imo State be remanded in prison.
Ohakim was arraigned before Justice Adeniyi Ademola for money laundering.
Ohakim also pleaded not guilty to the three-count charge preferred against him.
On Ohakim’s bail application Ademola ordered that the defence counsel should file and serve the prosecution with his response within 24 hours.
He also ordered that Ohakim be allowed access to his wife, Chioma, and medication while in custody and be brought to court at noon on Thursday.
Counsel to EFCC, Mr Festus Keyamo, objected to the bail application for Ohakim on the ground that the ex-governor had refused to honour the commission’s invitations.
Also on Tuesday, Justice Mohammed Yunusa of the Federal High Court, Lagos ordered the forfeiture of multi-billion naira assets allegedly belonging to former Governor of Enugu State, Dr Chimaroke Nnamani. The former senator was charged along with his former aide, Sunday Anyaogu, and six firms – Rainbownet, Hillgate Nigeria, Cosmos FM, Capital City Automobile Nig Ltd, Renaissance University Teaching Hospital and Mea Mater Elizabeth High School.
Justice Yunusa later split Nnamani’s trial from his co-accused, as he was abroad receiving treatment. All the accused were charged for violating some sections of the Money Laundering Act (2004) in some identified transactions while Lamido was governor of the state. The former Jigawa governor, his two sons and one Aminu Wada Abubakar, were brought to the court at 10 a.m.
They all pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the 28-count charge, involving some N1.3 billion. According to the EFCC lead counsel, Chile Okoroma, Lamido was principally charged for engaging in private businesses, as a public officer, allegedly with an aim of concealing the origin of the said amount listed in the charges.
The action violates the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended. In his prayer, the lead defence counsel, Effiong Effiong, appealed to the court that his clients be granted bail in line with their rights to freedom and liberty. Lamido, his sons and one Abubakar were arraigned alongside four companies where the Lamidos are believed to have interest.
The companies are Bamaina Holdings Limited, Bamiana Company Nigeria Limited, Bamaina Aluminum Limited and Speeds International Limited.
These five governors joined the list of former governors that have been under prosecution by the EFCC since the time of Mr. Nuhu Ribadu as the Chairman of EFCC. The former governors include Otunba Gbenga Daniel, Ogun, Adebayo Christopher Alao-Akala, Oyo and Alhaji Akwe Doma, Nasarawa and Danjuma Goje of Gombe state respectively.
Former Ogun state governor, Daniel is explaining to the court his alleged misappropriation of N58 billion while he held sway; the immediate past governor of Oyo State, Otunba Christopher Alao-Akala has been battling with the court on his alleged mismanagement of N25 billion while his counterpart in Nasarawa State, Alhaji Aliyu Akwe Doma is facing the court over an alleged N18 billion public funds which developed wings while the state treasury was under his watch
Similarly Goje is battling with the court for allegedly looting a whopping sum of N58 billion.
Also under prosecution by EFCC is the former Oyo State Governor, Senator Rashidi Ladoja.
Speaking on the renew effort of the EFCC, a legal practitioner and social commentator, Barrister Kenny Ayanwale said it is a positive development . According to him, the EFCC should not spare any former governor who dipped his hands into the public treasury.
He said Buhari through EFCC should bring to book all the corrupt people without sentiments. Either they are members of his party, the APC or not, those who are corrupt should be dealt with according to the law.
A public affairs analyst, Comrade Goddy Ngwu on his part also said that the effort of the EFCC in recent times is commendable but warned that there should be no sacred cows.
“Since they know that President Muhammadu Buhari is against corruption this would give the EFCC more impetus to fight corruption and we commended them for what they are doing now.
Chief Sola Olowoye, a PDP chieftain from Osun State, said corruption was closed to being legalised with the plundering of public funds by many public office holders from the inception of the present republic.
Olowoye feared the trend was becoming worrisome, as younger Nigerians were, instead of avoiding people with questionable wealth, and celebrate, though poor, but honest people, were beginning to see looting of public wealth as only means of amassing ing wealth.
He stressed that a more “forceful fight against the menace of corruption” remains the only way out for the country in dire need of new direction.
Olowoye said: “To serve as deterrent and stop Nigerians from adopting corruption as a way of life, all former governors, ministers, heads of ministries, departments and agencies, MDAs, whether in the All Progressives Congress, APC, PDP or any other party should be investigated.
“Regardless of where they come from, whether Daura, Kaduna, Lagos, Ogun or Rivers, Buhari should not spare anyone found to have stolen from public coffers.”
He charged Nigerians to be vigilant and provide security agencies with useful information that can help investigators recover the stolen funds, saying high level of poverty in the country can only be checked, when members of the public are alive to their responsibilities and the leaders are truthful in fighting corruption.
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