By Ikechukwu Nnochiri

 


ABUJA— AN Abuja High Court at Gudu, yesterday, remanded the Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Mr. Atiku Abubakar Kigo and five others in prison custody, following their alleged complicity in the illegal diversion of N32.8billion from the Nigeria Police Pension funds.

POLICE-PENSION-SCAM

POLICE PENSION SCAM: R-l: Essai Dangabar and Mrs Veronica Ulonma Onyegbula in the Court. INSET: Other suspects. Atiku Abubakar Kigo, Ahmed Inuwa Wada, John Yakubu Yusufu and Sani Habila Zira.

The other accused persons who were said to be public officers in the service of the government of the federation, are Esai Dangabar, Ahmed Inuwa Wada, John Yakubu Yusufu, Mrs Veronica Ulonma Onyegbula and Sani Habila Zira.Six of them took turns and pleaded not guilty to a 16-count criminal charge that was preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday.

Specifically, the anti-graft agency told the trial court that the accused persons perfected the alleged fraud at Abuja between January 2009 and June 2011.

It alleged that six of them conspired and sequentially withdrew monies from Police Pension funds in an account domiciled at First Bank of Nigeria and shared it amongst themselves, adding that the third accused person, Inuwa Wada, collected N18million from Unity Bank Plc, as his reward for retaining the Police Pension Account with the bank.

According to the EFCC, their offence which borders on conspiracy, fraud and criminal breach of trust, is punishable under sections 97, 315, 115(ii), 119 and 309, of the Penal Code Act Cap. 532, Laws of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria 2007.

Meantime, immediately the accused persons entered their plea to the charge which was read to them by the court clerk, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, sought their remand in the custody of the EFCC to enable him study a bail application he said was served on him in the court room.

He said: “My Lord, the accused persons just served me with their advanced bail applications. I will be asking for a date next week to enable me to study them and file the necessary processes.”

His submission angered the defence team who begged the trial judge to discountenance it and adjourn hearing on the bail motions till today.

According to counsel to the first accused person, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, who led Chief Awa Kalu, SAN, yesterday, “having regards to the facts that the suspects are still presumed innocent until pronounced guilty, ordinarily, your lordship should have been minded to granting them bail since they were previously on administrative bail. I urge my Lordship to adjourn till tomorrow (today) so that the bail applications can be argued.”

Opposition from  EFCC lawyer

Following a vehement opposition from the EFCC lawyer, counsel to the 2nd-6th accused persons, Mr. John Egwuonwu, urged the judge to order the continued detention of all the accused persons in the custody of the anti-graft agency from where they were brought to court yesterday, pending the determination of their request for bail.

Though the prosecutor did not raise objection to the request, however, the accused persons got the shocker when trial Justice Abubakar Talba ordered their immediate transfer to Prison custody pending when their bail applications are heard.

The judge ruled that “There is no law permitting the remand of an accused person in any other place apart from prison custody. Therefore, having entered their plea, the appropriate order for me to make at this juncture is that they should be remanded in prison custody pending the determination of their bail applications”.

He subsequently fixed next Tuesday to hear their bail applications, just as he adjourned trial on the substantive matter till May 28.

The charge against them read: “That you Esai Abubakar, Ahmed Inuwa Wada, John Yakubu Yusufu, Atiku Abubakr Kigo, Mrs Veronica Ulonma Onyegbula and Sani Habila Zira, between January 2009 and June 2011 at Abuja Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory agreed to do an illegal act, to wit: criminal breach of trust by public officers in respect of the sum of N14,518,567,724.36 (Fourteen billion, five hundred and eighteen million, five hundred and sixty seven thousand, seven hundred and twenty four naira and thirty six Kobo) and that the same act was done in pursuance of the agreement among you and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 97 of the Penal Code Cap. 532, Laws of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria 2007”.

“That you Esai Dangabar, John Yakubu Yusufu, Mrs. Veronica Ulonma Onyegbula and Sani Habila Zira, between January and December 2009 at Abuja in the Abuja Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, being public officers in the service of the government of the Federation and in such capacity entrusted with certain property, to wit: the sum of N8,920,371,822.24 (Eight billion, nine hundred and twenty million, three hundred and seventy one thousand, eight hundred and twenty two naira and twenty four Kobo) which sum formed part of Nigeria Police Pension funds in the account domiciled at the First Bank of Nigeria Plc, committed criminal breach of trust in respect of the said property, and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 315 of the Penal Code Act, Cap. 532, Laws of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Nigeria 2007”.

“That you Atiku Abubakar Kigo, John Yakubu Yusufu, Mrs. Veronica Uloma Onyegbula and Sani Habila Zira, between January 2010 and February 2011 at Abuja in the Abuja Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, being public officers in the service of the Government of the Federal Government and in such capacity entrusted with certain property, to wit: the sum of N4, 739,894.896.06 ( Four billion, seven hundred and thirty nine million, eight hundred and ninety four thousand, eight hundred and ninety six naira and six Kobo) which sum formed part of the Nigerian Police Pension funds in the account domiciled at the First Bank of Nigeria Plc, committed criminal breach of trust in respect of the said property, and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 315 of the Penal Code Act. Cap. 532, Laws of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja , Nigeria 2007.”

 

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