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EFCC: Covid-19 can’t stop anti-graft war

TONY AKOWE reports

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has vowed to continue with the cases it instituted in courts against corrupt persons and organisations, despite the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic.

The protracted lockdown arising from the dreaded Corona virus scourge seems to be an impediment to the fight against corrupt practices but the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is on course as none of its ongoing investigations and cases in court would be aborted.

By the time the uncertainties and dark curtain on economic and other activities by the deadly COVID-19 contagion are eased , the EFCC would be among  top government agencies  waiting to  hit the headlines and airwaves again, owing to the plethora of cases it is investigating and prosecuting in court.

Reports show that the Commission has its hands full  of cases awaiting resolution  in court, while some cases being investigated are ripe for prosecution.

One of such cases is the  alleged  N7.7billion Police Equipment Fund’s (PEF) fraud involving  Kenny Martins.  The EFCC is prosecuting Kenny Martins, the coordinator of PEF, following his alleged connivance with three others to embezzle about N7,740,000,000 belonging to the PEF.

It will be recalled that the EFCC had appealed against the judgment of Justice Mohammed Talba of an  FCT High Court, Gudu, which discharged him and his co-defendants Ibrahim Dumuje, Joni Icheka and Cosmas Okpara, after he upheld their “no-case submission” on November 24, 2009.

Dissatisfied with the verdict of the lower court, the EFCC approached the Court of Appeal in Abuja, asking it to set aside the judgment on the grounds of perverse verdict and miscarriage of justice.

In its decision over the matter, appellate court had on June 28, 2012, upheld the argument of the EFCC, insisting that its appeal was meritorious.

The Court of Appeal had further in its landmark judgment read by Justice Regina Nwodo, held that Justice Talba erred in his judgement and consequently ordered the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court to reassign the case to another judge for re-trial.

But, as the EFCC was getting set to re-arraign  the defendants, Kenny Martins proceeded to the Supreme Court, asking the apex court to set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal.

The Supreme Court, however, on March 23, 2018, dismissed Kenny Martins appeal, thus finally giving the green light for the commencement of his trial.

To this end, the EFCC amended the charges against  Martins and other defendants and arraigned them before Justice Adebiyi on January 15, 2020 for their various alleged roles in forging Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) documents to facilitate the PEF fraud among other allegations. Hearing on the case is expected to continue immediately after the lockdown is relaxed.

Other  cases  that may come on stream with the imminent easing of the lockdown order by the government,  include such cases involving Doyin Okupe,  Babachir Lawal,  Ismaila Mustapha, Chief Fani Kayode, Senator Gabriel Suswan,   Andrew Yakubu,  Senator Adeseye Ogunleye,  ex-governor Ibrahim Shekarau, former First Lady Patience Jonathan,  Air Marshall Adeola Amosu,  Senator Jonah Jang, Senator Seidu Kumo and Ibrahim Shema.

Okupe, a former aide of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, is billed to  continue his defence this month. He was given permission to travel for health reasons.

The former presidential aide  is being prosecuted by the EFCC alongside his two companies: Value Trust Investments and Abrahams Telecoms on a 59-count charge bordering on money laundering and criminal diversion of N702,000,000.

Others are Babachir Lawal, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), who was arraigned for benefiting illegally from the approval of N544,119,925.36, for the removal of invasive plant species and simplified irrigation. His trial was adjourned to April 10, 2020, but could not hold as a result of COVID-19.

Social media celebrity, Ismaila Mustapha (Mompha) and his company, Ismalob Global Investment Limited, were re-arraigned   before a Federal High Court, Lagos.

The EFCC  re-arraigned him on second amended charge of 22 counts bordering on money laundering before Justice Mohammed Liman. Mompha and his company were first arraigned sometimes in November 2019 on a 14 count-count charge of the offence.

In the new amended charge, EFCC alleged that Mompha procured his company, Ismalob Global Investment Limited to retain the sum of N33.006,026,806 between 2015 and 2018. The case is still ongoing.

Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, a former Minister of Aviation is  standing trial alongside a former Minister of State for Finance, Mrs. Esther Nenadi Usman, Danjuma Yusuf and a company, John Trust Dimensions Nigeria Limited before Justice Mohammed Aikawa of a Federal High Court in Lagos over an alleged N4.6 billion fraud.

They were re-arraigned before the court on May 15, 2017, by the EFCC  on a 17-count charge bordering on the alleged offence.

Their re-arraignment came two months after another judge of the court, Justice Muslim Sule Hassan, recused himself from the case.

At the last hearing of the matter on 11th June, 2018, EFCC’s lawyer, Idris Mohammed informed the judge that his third witness was indisposed and as such he would not be able to continue. He, however, sought an adjournment.

Senator Gabriel Suswam , a former Benue State State Governor and others are standing trial in three cases pending before the Federal High Courts Abuja.

The latest is a three-count charge of money laundering and illegal possession of firearms on which he was arraigned on July 6, 2018 before Justice Mohammed Ahmed.

Proceedings are expected to resume on October 24. In the first of the other two cases, Suswam is being tried with a former Commissioner of Finance in Benue State, Omadachi Oklobia. They are accused of diverting proceeds of the sale of Benue State’s investments in some companies.

The case is pending before Justice Ahmed Mohammed and has been adjourned to October 9 for continuation of trial. Suswam, Okolobia and Mrs. Janet Anuga, in the second charge FHC/ABJ/CR/48/2017, were accused of diverting funds meant for SURE-P projects in the State.

The case was pending before Justice Gabriel Kolawole before the judge’s elevation to the Court of Appeal. The case is expected to be reassigned to a new judge at the resumption of the court.

Dr. Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, former SSA to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan on Domestic Affairs, is on trial alongside, Iwejuo Joseph Nna, before a Federal High Court in Lagos. He was docked on June 11, 2018 before Justice Mohammed Idris for alleged N1.6 billion fraud.

The former presidential aide alongside his accomplice were arraigned on a 23-count charge of conspiracy to conceal proceeds of crime amounting to N1.6 billion.

In the charge, the EFCC alleged that the two accused persons, between June 2013 and June 2015, used different companies to fraudulently launder the said money. Some of the companies the anti-graft agency claimed were used to launder the money include; Seagate Property Development & Investment Limited; Avalon Global Property Development Company Limited and Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited.

Others are: Rotate Interlink Services Limited; Ibejige Services Limited; DeJakes Fast Food and Restaurant Nigeria Ltd and Ebiwise Andrew Yakubu, a former Group Managing Director (GMD), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC,  was arraigned by the EFCC, on Thursday, March 16, 2017 before Justice A. R. Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja on a six-count charge bordering on money laundering, non-disclosure of assets and fraud.

Yakubu’s journey to the dock started on February 3, 2017, when operatives of the EFCC stormed a building belonging to the former NNPC boss and recovered a staggering sum of $9,772,000 and £74,000 stashed in a huge fire proof safe.

Following the raid, Yakubu on February 8, 2017 reported to the Commission’s Kano Zonal Office where he admitted being the owner of both the house and the money recovered.

The offence breaches Section 7(4)(b)(ii) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 7 (5) of the same Act.

A Federal High Court sitting in Kano presided over by Justice Zainab B. Abubakar on February 14, 2017 ordered the forfeiture of the money recovered from Yakubu to the Federal Government. The order was sequel to an ex parte application by the EFCC seeking an interim forfeiture of the sum.

Senator Adeseye Ogunleye, a former Minister of Works and former Pro-Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Ogun State was arraigned on November 25, 2016 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC).

In a case with suit No. AB/EFCC/03/16, Ogunlewe alongside the Vice-Chancellor of FUNAAB, Prof. Olusola Oyewole; and the Bursar of the institution, Mr. Moses Ilesanmi were arraigned before the Ogun State High Court, Abeokuta, on 18 counts, bordering on conspiracy, stealing, obtaining money by false pretences and abuse of office in connection with an alleged N409 million fraud.

The court later sat on the case in January 26, 2017 before Justice Olatokunbo Majekodumi of an Abeokuta High Court where Ogunlewe requested that his name be removed from the corruption case.

Wale Adesokan, counsel to Mr. Ogunlewe, had brought an application seeking to quash his client’s name from the case, saying the court has no jurisdiction to hear the case.

Senator Ibrahim Shekarau was arraigned in May 2018, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission before Federal High Court sitting in Kano over alleged money laundering offence.

Shekarau, together with Bashir Wali and Mansur Ahmad, are facing six counts charge bordering on conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of N950million.

Lawyer to the EFCC, Mr. Johnson Ojogbane, told the court that the defendants had, between March 26 and 27, 2015 in Kano, conspired between themselves and received various sums of money without going through financial institutions.

In one of the several money laundering cases against former First Lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan , the EFCC had filed a 15-count charge against her firms and Dudafa, Amajuoyi Briggs, a lawyer; and Damola Bolodeoku, a Skye Bank official. After the charges were read to the accused, the first, second and third accused pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Meanwhile, the four individuals representing the companies listed in the charge, each pleaded guilty to the offences. Four companies were  linked to the alleged money laundering case involving the former First Lady and she  pleaded guilty to the offence.

Like all the foregoing cases,  the matter involving the former First Lady has yet to be resolved.  So also are all other pending cases at different levels of our court system.

But, the EFCC says that it is determined to follow all the cases to a logical conclusion, notwithstanding the hiccup in their trial as a result of the dreaded Covid-19 contagion.

The Acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Magu, disclosed that all the pending investigations and cases would be followed up diligently and justice would be served in all of them without fear of favour.

According to Magu, the EFCC will live up to expectations and ensure that the right things are done for better tomorrow.


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