Five former governors in EFCC’s ‘emergency’ dock
• Lamido, sons remanded in prison custody • Ohakim gets bail, court reserves ruling in Sylva’s case
• Detention facility ‘overstretched’
• BPP advocates prosecution of corrupt public officers
FORMER Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido and his two sons – Aminu and Mustapha – yesterday joined the list of big names in Nigeria’s political space, who are being docked by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a renewed war against graft.
A Federal High Court in Kano remanded Lamido and his two sons in prisons custody for two months after they were arraigned before Justice Evelyn Anyadike on 28-count charge bordering on corruption and money laundering. Yesterday’s ruling was the fourth in EFCC’s arraignment of former governors, including Chimaroke Nnamani (Enugu State), Ikedi Ohakim (Imo), Murtala Nyako and son (Adamawa).
Ohakim was arraigned on Wednesday in Abuja before Justice Adeniyi Ademola on a three-count charge of money laundering involving $2.29 million. Ohakim was yesterday granted bail by Justice Ademola.
Moving the bail application, Ohakim’s counsel, Chris Uche (SAN) prayed the court to admit his client to bail on liberal terms, adding that the charges are bailable. However, prosecuting counsel, Festus Keyamo, urged the court to refuse the application. After listening to both counsel, Justice Adeniyi admitted the accused person to bail in the sum of N270 million with one surety who must be resident in Abuja.
The surety, who must have landed property within Abuja, must swear to an affidavit of means. The surety is also to deposit his/her international passport with the Deputy Registrar of the court.
The case has been adjourned to October 20, 2015. Ohakim was arrested by operatives of the EFCC on Tuesday, July 7, 2015. The former governor is being prosecuted, among other things, for making a cash payment to the tune of $2.2 million for the purchase of a piece of land at Plot No. 1098, Cadastral Zone A04, Asokoro District, otherwise known as No.60, Kwame Nkurumah Street, Asokoro, Abuja.
Nyako and his son, Abdulazis, appeared before the same division of the Federal High Court. Their bid to be admitted on bail, based on an application filed by their counsel, Chief Kanu Godwin Agabi (SAN) failed yesterday. 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).
Having fallen out of favour with former President Goodluck Jonathan due to his public criticisms of his administration, the former Adamawa governor was subsequently impeached by the state House of Assembly, following which he left the country. Nyako returned shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari defeated Jonathan in the March 28, 2015 Presidential election.
On Tuesday, Justice Mohammed Yunusa of the Federal High Court, Lagos ordered the forfeiture of multi-billion naira assets allegedly belonging to him. 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.
Lamido 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 fronts.
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, Effiong Effiong, 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. Tanks were reportedly rolled out as heavily armed police officers stood guard at Lamido’s arraignment.
A long stretch of the road, which leads to the court, was cordoned off, for the period of the court session. The arraignment of Lamido and his children was not without incident as an unruly crowd of supporters loyal to the former governor threatened to disrupt the court session. It took reinforcement of the detachment of policemen at the court to maintain order.
The travails of the Lamidos began in 2012 when Operatives of the EFCC at the Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano arrested one of his sons, Aminu 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 Also yesterday, the Federal High Court, Abuja Division reserved ruling in an application filed by former governor of Bayelsa State, Chief Timipre Sylva, seeking to quash the fresh charges preferred against him by the EFCC. The trial Judge, Justice Ademola adjourned ruling sine di (indefinitely) in the case after parties in the suit had closed argument in the application.
He said the court would issue hearing notices to parties when the ruling is ready by middle of August after the court returns from vacation, which commences tomorrow (Saturday). Counsel to the former governor, Prince Lateef Fagbemi (SAN) had told the court to set aside the charges against his client on the ground that he cannot be re-arraigned on the charges that have been dismissed by the same court.
“He cannot be re-arraigned on the same fact, same event and same investigation. We are challenging the jurisdiction of this court to hear the charges against the accused person. We urge the court to decline jurisdiction,” he argued.
On his part, counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), in his objection, told the court that the charge before it is different from the one earlier dismissed by the court last month. He said the charge has been expanded to 50 from the 42-count charge that was dismissed by Justice Ahmed Ramat Mohammed of the same court. “The motion asking for the dismissal of the charges is misconceived.
What the court should look at in criminal matter is the constitution and the Criminal Procedure Act (CPA),” Jacobs argued. Justice Mohammed had on June 10 dismissed one of the two charges earlier brought against him and some others by the EFCC on the ground that it amounted to an abuse of court process.
But EFCC disagreed with the judgment on the ground that it was premature, as the accused persons had not taken any plea before the court. Earlier on June 1, Justice Evoh Chukwu (also of the Federal High Court, Abuja) struck out the other charge upon EFCC’s application for withdrawal.
In the fresh 50-count charge, Sylva is charged alongside Francis Okokuro, Gbenga Balogun, and Samuel Ogbuku. Meanwhile, the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP), Emeka Eze, yesterday, said that corrupt public officers should be prosecuted under the 2007 Procurement Act, which stipulates a minimum 10-year jail term for such offences.
Eze gave the advice in his goodwill message at a workshop on “Entrenching Integrity in the Procurement Process in Tertiary Institutions” organised by the Anti-Corruption Academy of Nigeria (ACAN), which took place at the Headquarters of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), in Abuja.