As the new National Prosecution Coordination Committee (NPCC) set up by the Attorney- General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) to try high profile criminal cases in the country settles down to work, OLUGBENGA SOYELE x-rays the controversies trailing the committee in view of the role of the EFCC and ICPC
Others cases also included those indicted over the funds for the purchase of arms to fight Boko Haram, former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, Olisa Metuh, former Chairman, DAAR Communications Plc, Raymond Dokpesi, Sambo Dasuki.
Although many see the developments as right step in the right direction that will aid the fight against corruption they however, feel that the committee may be subject to abuse by the AGF.
They are also worried that the committee may render the EFCC and ICPC impotent, saying that the development is contrary to the prosecutorial powers of these agencies and may disrupt some of the ongoing cases in court, some of which are almost concluded.
Some commentators have also criticised the AGF for taken bad decision, like the case of where he engaged a security expert, George Uboh of Panic Alert Security System (PASS) on February 9 to recover public funds stashed away by individuals in different Nigerian banks and some Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
But the relationship later turned sour as Malami and Uboh, who was later convicted for fraud, had a public disagreement and fallout.
However, some lawyers who spoke to LEADERSHIP on the issue appeared divided over whether Committee is necessary.
Alhough the lawyers, including a professor of law, Gbenga Ojo and the Chairman of the Nigeria Bar Association Ikeja branch, Dele Oloke agreed that the AGF has the constitution powers to set up the committee, they however caution Malami not to reduce the prosecutorial powers of police, the EFCC, ICPC and others agencies with constitutional powers to try cases in court.
One of the lawyers, Prof Gbenga Ojo, who speaks to LEADERSHIP on the issue said this government has made so much noice about corruption and EFCC has made so many arrest, so no one wants to listen to any story like some of the accused person getting off the hook on technical ground.
He said, “So if this government can take any step that would ensure that those found to be corrupt are brought to book they should do it. Let the FG get the best lawyers from every part of the country to prosecute the case.
“But the AGF must know that if after all this measures are put in place and one guilty person escape justice he would be held responsible. Because they can not be making this kind of noise and the people they are taking to court are set free because of lack of evidence or lack of diligent prosecution.
But a Lagos -based human rights activist, Moses Ezezoobo believed that the committee is not necessary as the lawyers doing the job now are doing a good job, he said that rather than bringing new set of lawyers on board the government should fix the system.
Ezezoobo said that the problem is not the prosecution team on ground now but several loopholes that existed in the judicial system, noting that there is no proper structure and the .check and balance is non existence.
He cited a case where it take over 12 years to conclude a case from the high court to the Supreme Court, according to him it takes six years to get a hearing date at the apex court.
The lawyer also sees the committee as an indictment on the capability of the EFCC and ICPC to successfully investigate and prosecute cases. He said if the AGF feel that they are not up to the task he should train them and if they are not still good enough he should sack them and get competent lawyers to do the job.
Also speaking on the issue, the NBA Chairman Ikeja Branch, Dele Oloke, said any organ of the state that is establish to fight corruption should be welcome by everybody because corruption is the greatest ill that is plaguing the society.
Oloke also stressed that the EFCC and the ICPC has financial constrain and they can not cope with the number of cases they have on their hands. They also lack the manpower to prosecute all the case they are investigating and those in court.
He said, “ I see the committee as a body to assist these agencies so that the fewer the work the better the result. The only thing is that the AGF must ensure that people without integrity are not allow to hijack the process.
On his part, the executive director of Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP Adetokunbo Mumuni said that the committee is a welcome development as it will improve the quantity and quality of lawyers available to the government to prosecute high profile cases in the country.
He pointed out that most of the people on trial for corruption cases in the country are people with deep pockets, who can engage and pay lawyers the highest fees. So if the government is serious it must look for lawyers that would not be intimidated by the defence lawyers.
He said, “You know that some judges are not confidence and some are not even deep in their knowledge of the law, so they are easily intimidated. So there is need for a senior lawyer on the other side to check the excesses of the defence lawyers, you can not leave everything to only Rotimi Jacobs.
“I will however, advice the AGF to vet the lawyers coming on board. There should be a background check so that people of questionable characters would not compromise the process. Any lawyer to be engaged by the tcommittee must sign an undertaken not to take any case from the other side,” he stated.
Former President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Right, Olasupo Ojo said that the committee should not be made up of friends of the AGF.
Ojo advise Malami to expand membership of the committee to other lawyers that have been in the forth front of the fight against corruption. He should develop a training manual for anti corruption prosecutors.
However, as the debate continue one area that the federal government need to take a second look at is the core issue of lack of proper investigation of cases taken to court for trial has because no matter how strong and well grounded in law the prosecution team is if a case was not properly investigated it will collapse in court.
So the investigative teams of the EFCC ICPC, the Police and other investigating agencies need to be well tutored on scientific ways of investigating cases. It is also important for the government to ensure that these agencies including NPCC are well funded so that they won’t be susceptible to corruption.
It is remarkable to note that the EFCC under the leadership of its acting chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, is handling certain high profile cases which have reached trial stages while the agency has even closed its case against some of the politically exposed persons.
Status of high profile cases by the EFCC in different Court.
Joshua Dariye – a serving Senator representing Plateau Central, and former governor of Plateau State, is facing a 23-count charge involving a N1.16 billion fraud at the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Gudu, Abuja. The EFCC closed its case against him on June 6, 2016 after presenting its tenth witness. His defence team opened its case on June 17, 2016. Dariye is expected back in court on September 19, 2016.
Aliyu Akwe-Doma – a former governor of Nasarawa State, is facing a 10-count charge bordering on corruption and money laundering at the Federal High Court, Lafia, Nasarawa State, along with a former Secretary to the State Government, Timothy Anjide, and a former Accountant-General, Dauda Egwa. They are alleged to have fraudulently diverted about N8 billion from the state coffers. The EFCC closed it case against them on June 23, 2016 after presenting nine witnesses. They will be back in court on November 28, 2016.
Ikedi Ohakim – a former governor of Imo State, is facing a three-count charge bordering on money laundering offence, before a Federal High Court, Abuja. He is alleged to have made a cash payment of $2,290,000 to procure a property located at 60, Kwame Nkurumah Street, Asokoro in Abuja – an act contrary to the Money Laundering Act 2011 (as amended in 2012). Ohakim was first arraigned on July 8, 2015. His “no-case” submission application was on June 30, 2016 dismissed by the trial judge who ruled that a prima facie case had been established against him. The EFCC closed its case against Ohakim on May 5, 2016 after presenting six witnesses and tendering documentary exhibits to prove its case. Ohakim is expected back in court on October 10, 2016.
Olisa Metuh – a former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is being prosecuted for receiving N400 million from the Office of the National Security Adviser for political campaigns. The EFCC closed its case against him on February 9, 2016 after presenting its eighth witness. Metuh was arrested in January after investigations into the $2.1 billion arms fund indicated that he was a beneficiary of the slush fund.
Jolly Nyame – a former governor of Taraba State is being prosecuted on a 41-count charge bordering on money laundering and criminal breach of trust to the tune of N1.64 billion, before Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Gudu, Abuja. His trial began in 2007. The EFCC presented its ninth witness against him on May 20, 2013. The defence, however, brought in a twist challenging the admissibility of the statements. It argued that the 2007 statements were “not voluntarily obtained” from him. Nyame had alleged that he was forced to sign the statement, which he made. The allegation sparked the beginning of a trial-within-a-trial, in a case that started in 2007. It was to determine if the statement was obtained voluntarily or not. Judgment on the matter was however, only decided on April 25, 2016 – three years after the commencement of the trial-within-a-trial. Ruling on the admissibility of Nyame’s statements dated June 6 and 7, 2007 and July 11, 2007 Justice Banjoko admitted them as exhibits and overruled the former governor’s objections. His trial is to continue on September 27, 2016.
Danjuma Goje – a former governor of Gombe State, and a serving Senator, is is being prosecuted before Justice B.O. Quadri of the Federal High Court, Gombe State, on an 18-count charge bordering on conspiracy and money laundering. His trial began in November 2012. Goje is being prosecuted along with Sabo Tumu, former Gombe State Government House food supplier; Aliyu el-Nafaty, former Executive Chairman, of the state’s UBEB; S.M. Dokoro, proprietor of S. M. Dokoro and M. Dokoro Gombe. On June 15, 2016 the prosecution presented a witness, Salisu Abaji, former secretary to the state’s Universal Basic Education Board, UBEB, who told the court that Goje awarded contract for supply of dictionaries for over N1 billion without following procurement process.
Murtala Nyako – a former governor of Adamawa State, is being prosecuted by the EFCC along with his son, Senator Abdul-Aziz Nyako, Abubakar Aliyu and Zulkifikk Abba on a 37-count charge bordering on criminal conspiracy, stealing, abuse of office and money laundering to the tune of N29 billion, their trial which began on July 8, 2015 before Justice Chukwu will have to begin afresh. Justice Chukwu went the way of all mortals on June 8, 2016. The prosecution had presented five witnesses to prove its case against the defendants. The trial will, however, have to start afresh before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja on September 12, 2016.
Orji Uzor Kalu – a former governor of Abia State, is being prosecuted for a N5.6 billion fraud committed during his tenure. Kalu was first arraigned on a 107-count charge before Justice Binta Nyako of a Federal High Court, Abuja, on July 27, 2007. He was arraigned along with his company, Slok Airlines Nigeria Limited and Udeh Udeogu. His trial was however, stalled after he proceeded to the Supreme Court seeking to quash the charges. His appeal at the Supreme Court subsequently stalled his trial until March 18, 2016 when a five-man panel headed by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, dismissed his appeal, and ordered that he “go and face” his trial at the Federal High Court. The Supreme Court also ordered that the case be re-assigned to a new judge. On May 16, 2016 the EFCC arraigned Kalu before Justice Anwuli Chikere of a Federal High Court Abuja, on an amended 37-count charge. Kalu is expected in court on September 27, 2016 when he is expected to take his plea.
Gabriel Suswam – a former governor of Benue State is being prosecuted on a nine-count charge bordering on conspiracy, bribery, abuse of office and obtaining by false pretence, to the tune of N3.1 billion fraud. He was first arraigned on November 10, 2015. The EFCC on May 4, 2016 presented its fourth witness. His trial before Justice A.R. Mohammed of the Federal High Court Abuja, continues on October 4, 2016.
Ahmadu Fintiri–served as an acting governor of Adamawa State. He was first arraigned on June 30, 2016 before Justice A.R. Mohammed on a five-count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N2.9 billion. The former Speaker of the state’s House of Assembly, served briefly as the state governor in 2014 when Murtala Nyako, then governor, was impeached. Fintiri would be back in court on October 6, 2016.
Sule Lamido – a former governor of Jigawa State, is being prosecuted on a 27-count amended charge before Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja, along with his two sons, Aminu and Mustapha. They were first arraigned before Justice Evelyn Anyadike of the Federal High Court, Kano State, on a 28-coun charge, on July 9, 2015 for allegedly misappropriating funds belonging to the state.
Rufus Ojuawo, an Air Vice Marshall and former Director of Operations, Nigeria Air Force, is being prosecuted on a two-count charge bordering on bribery to the tune of N40 million before Justice M.B. Idris of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Apo, Abuja. His trial continues on September 15, 2016.
Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, a Lagos-based human rights lawyer is being prosecuted before Justice Oluremi Oguntoyinbo of the Federal High Court, Lagos for charges bordering on obtaining money under false pretence to the tune of N61,631,944.65. His trial continues on September 23, 2016.
Adeniyi Kayode-Beckley, an Air Vice Marshal, was first arraigned on June 29, 2016 before Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the FCT High Court, Gudu, Abuja, on a one-count charge of bribery to the tune of N10 million. His trial continues on September 27, 2016.
Stephen Oronsaye, a former Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Financial Action Task Force, PCFATF, is being prosecuted on a two-count charge bordering on abuse of office and obtaining by false pretence to the tune of N190 million, before Justice Olasumbo Goodluck of the FCT High Court Maitama, Abuja. His trial continues on September 28, 2016.
Mohammed Umar, an ex-Chief of Air Staff is being prosecuted on a seven-count charge bordering on money laundering, criminal breach of trust and corruption before Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja. He was first arraigned on May 11, 2016. His trial continues on October 12, 2016.
Raymond Dokpesi – former Chairman, DAAR Communications Plc and African wIndependent Television, AIT, wa arraigned for charges bordering on money laundering and procurement-related fraud. He was re-arraigned before Justice J.T. Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja on a six-count charge to the tune of N2.1 billion. His trial continues on October 19, 2016.
Jide Omokore – Chairman/founder, Energy Resources Group, was arraigned on July 4, 2016 before Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja on a nine-count charge bordering on money laundering and procurement fraud.