A Federal High Court in Lagos last Monday granted a motion for the release of the International Passport of a former Minister of State for Finance, Nenandi Usman, facing N4.6 billion money laundering charges.
Usman is standing trial alongside a former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, Yusuf Danjuma, a former Chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON), and a Company Jointrust Dimension Ltd.
The defendants were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on 17-counts.
They had each pleaded not guilty to the charge, and were granted bail.
EFCC had earlier opened the case for the prosecution and was still leading witnesses in evidence.
When the case was called on Monday, Mr U.U. Buhari announced appearance for the prosecution, Chief Ferdinand Orbih (SAN) appeared for the first defendant while Mr Morrison Quakers (SAN) appeared for the second defendant.
Buhari then informed the court that the prosecution was ready to proceed with trial adding that prosecution witness was in court.
Orbih on his part, informed the court of a motion by defence, seeking variation of the bail terms earlier granted the first defendant for a release of her international passport for an overseas trip.
He told the court that he had spoken with the lead prosecutor for the motion to be taken.
Just then, the lead counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo came into the court, announced his appearance, and told the court that the case was set for trial but that there appeared to be a mix up in the communication between counsel.
He, however, said in the interest of justice, he would concede to the motion being taken.
This application was not opposed.
Oyedepo, said that since the first defendant had been granted such indulgences in the past and had honoured same without any issue, he would not oppose the motion.
He however added: “I pray that God heals her so that she will not have to travel again,”
Justice Mohammed Aikawa consequently, granted the motion as prayed, and held that the passport be retuned back to court on or before January 15.
He adjourned the case until Jan. 23 and Jan. 24 for continuation of trial.
Meanwhile, the court noted that there was a letter by a surety to the third defendant, seeking to withdraw his title document and his suretiship for the third defendant (Danjuma)
In reaction, first defence counsel, Orbih, noted that such procedure was strange in law , especially as it was mid way into trial.
He, however, told the court that whatever issues there was, would be resolved one way or the other before the next adjourned date.
At a last adjourned date on Oct. 29, EFCC had led Mr Shehu Shuaibu, its third prosecution witness in evidence.
Shuaibu, an investigator with the commission, had narrated to the court, how the sum of N800 million was paid from the Ministry of External Affairs into the account of the fourth defendant, Jointrust Dimension Ltd.
The witness had told the court that investigations revealed that on Jan. 16, 2015, the sum of N800million was paid into the account of the company.
He had told the court that the money came from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), adding that the signatories to the account were one Darbisu and Benjamin.
The witness had told the court that the said signatories were former staff of the MEA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), respectively, but were both currently working with the National Intelligence Agency.
Under cross examination by defence, the witness told the court that the author of the entries in exhibit Eight was the MEA.
When asked if any of the defendants had any input in the said entries, the witness had replied “No. they don’t”
When further asked to confirm if there existed in the said exhibit, words like Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the witness had replied” No”.
They further explained that the words were abbreviated to read MEA and MFA.
The witness had also told the court that he had no knowledge if any of the defendants were employees of any investigation agency of Government.
In the charge, the defendants were alleged to have committed the offences between January and March 2015.
In counts one to seven, they were alleged to have unlawfully retained over N3.8 billion which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act of stealing and corruption.
In counts eight to 14, they were alleged to have unlawfully used over N970 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of an unlawful act of corruption.
Meanwhile in counts 15 to17 Fani-Kayode and one Olubode Oke who is said to be at large, were alleged to have made cash payments of about N30 million, in excess of the amount allowed by law, without going through a financial institution.
Besides, Fani-Kayode was alleged to have made payments to one Paste Poster Co (PPC) of No 125 Lewis St., Lagos, in excess of amounts allowed by law.
All offences contravened the provisions of sections 15 (3) (4), 16 (2) (b), and 16 (5) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.
Court Remands Legal Awards Organiser Over N20m Fraud
An Ikeja Special Offences Court yesterday remanded Lere Fashola, the organiser of Esquire Nigerian Legal Awards at the correctional facility over alleged N20 million property fraud.
The Tide source reports that Fashola, a lawyer, is also the publisher of Esquire Law Magazine.
Fashola and his company, Legal Blitz Ltd were arraigned by the Advanced Fee Fraud Section of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a three-count charge of stealing and issuance of dud cheques.
Following his not guilty plea to the charges, Justice Sherifat Solebo ordered that the award organiser should be remanded at a correctional facility.
Solebo did not name the correctional facility where Fashola would be remanded.
“Pending the hearing and the determination of the bail application, the defendant is ordered to be remanded at the correctional facility,” Solebo said.
According to the EFCC Prosecutor, Mrs Joy Amahian, the defendants committed the offences in Lagos between Jan. 5 to Feb. 28, 2018.
According to the anti-graft agency, the lawyer was arrested, following a petition by a client, Mr Adeyemi Adebola, who alleged that Fashola had under false pretences, obtained N20 million during a transaction for the purchase of a property.
The property is located at Plot 732, Block XXVII (27), Omole Residential Scheme, Phase 2, Isheri, Lagos
The EFCC alleged that the defendant dishonestly converted to his own use, N20 million which was deposited by Adebola for the purchase of the property.
Dokpesi Opens Defence In N2.1bn Fraud Charge
The founder of DAAR Communications Plc, Raymond Dokpesi, yesterday, at the Federal High Court Abuja, opened his defence in the alleged N2.1 billion fraud charge, preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EFCC arraigned Dokpesi in 2015, on a seven-count charge, bordering on alleged N2.1 billion fraud, said to be payments received from the office of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
At the resumed hearing, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), informed the court that the matter had been adjourned for Dokpesi to open his defence.
Dokpesi was called as the first defence witness and led in evidence by his counsel, Mike Ozekhome (SAN).
Dokpesi told the court that he was a marine engineer by training and founder of Daar Investment and Holding, the parent company of Daar Communications.
He further told the court that the company which had been in business in the past 32 years for print media and 28 years for electronic media, served governments at all levels, business entities, individuals and corporate organisations.
“All that any of our customer needs to do is reach out to our canvassers through our marketing and sales officers and management to book for airtime on the product they want advertised.
” There is no special treatment, as it is one and the same procedure for everybody; Federal Government, state government or individuals,” he said.
He also told the court that the company had a brochure with advert rates where corporate organisations and individuals could peruse to pick the package that they were most comfortable with.
Ozekhome tendered the brochure as an exhibit and it was admitted in evidence.
When, he, however, sought to tender a receipt issued to Nasarawa State Government by Daar Communications, the prosecutor objected on the grounds that the document was irrelevant to the case.
“The receipts were not issued to the Federal Government and are not related to the sum of the charge which is N2.1 billion.
” All the receipts were issued in 2019, while proceedings in this suit are still pending, contrary to Section 83 of the Evidence Act.”
A Woman’s Right Of Inheritance
Section 42(1) (a) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended provides that “A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not by reason only that he is such a person, be subjected either expressly by or in practical application of any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religion or political opinions are not made subject.”
This provision makes it clear that nobody should be discriminated upon by reason of his or her sex. In most parts of Nigeria today, female children are still being discriminated against on issues of inheritance, especially under native law and custom. The court has constantly held that this practice was repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience as seen in the case of Motoh V. Motoh (2011) 16 NWLR PT 1274 CA where it was held that the native law and custom of Umuanaga Akwa which discriminates against female children of the same parent and favours the male children who inherit all the estate of their father to the exclusion of their female siblings is repugnant to natural justice, equity and good conscience.
In the words of Niki Tobi J.C. A (as he reverence) in Mojekwu V. Mojekwu (1997) 7 NWLR (Pt 512) 283 “… any form of societal discrimination on grounds of sex, apart from being unconstitutional, is antithesis to a society built on the tenet of democracy, which we have freely chosen as a people. It is the monopoly of God to determine the sex of a baby and not the parents… Accordingly, for a custom or customary law to discriminate against a particular sex, is to say the least, an affront to the Almighty God Himself.” Aside the discrimination of a girl child some Igbo customs forbid a wife who worked hard with the husband to acquire the property they tag “His Own” from inheriting such property. In some cases the brother of the deceased inherits his wife and his property (Ikuchi).
Our courts have also condemned the tradition where a female child in order to inherit her late father’s property will assume the position of a man in her father’s house. This means that she will remain in her father’s house unmarried but have children in her father’s name (Nrachi custom of Nnewi). According to Fabiyi J.C.A. in Mojekwu V Ejikeme (200(0 5 NWLR (Pt 656) 402 “… it cannot and should not be allowed to rear its ugly head any longer, it should die a natural death and be buried. It should not be allowed to resurrect. The custom is perfidious and the petrifying odour smells to high heavens.”
Despite these bold pronouncements by the courts and the constitutional provision, many women still experience discrimination in terms of t heir right to inheritance. It is true that the brilliant pronouncement by the courts have not proven sufficient to eliminate discrimination against women as is currently experienced. This write-up is a clarion call to women to fight for their rights.
Nkechi Bright Ewere
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