The Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday, dismissed an application by EFCC to cross-examine former Group Managing Director (GMD), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Andrew Yakubu.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed, in a ruling, sustained the objection raised by Ahmed Raji, SAN, counsel to Mr Yakubu.
Raji had, on July 22, disagreed with the EFCC’s Lawyer, Mohammed Abubakar, on his plan to cross-examine his client, who is the first defence witness (DW1), based on Exhibit “J”.
Exhibit J borders on a case with suit number: FHC/ABJ/CR/121/2016, which was instituted by the anti-graft agency in 2016 before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba when Yakubu was GMD of NNPC.
The case, which is still ongoing, involves an oil company, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Ltd., in which Yakubu was initially the 7th defendant in the suit and was later dropped to become the first prosecution witness in the matter bordering on illegal lifting of crude oil.
Raji had argued that Exhibit J, which the EFCC lawyer planned to take Yakubu on, was irrelevant to the case at hand.
He objected to the propriety of the prosecution to cross-examine the ex-GMD on the exhibit which he said was tendered in respect of counts one and two whose counts had been struck out pursuant to the orders of the Court of Appeal in its judgment dated April 24.
According to Raji, counts one and two having been struck out by the Court of Appeal; Exhibit J which was tendered thereof has become irrelevant as far as counts three and four are concerned.
Our source reports that the EFCC had, in 2017, raided the residence of the ex-NNPC boss in Kaduna State and found 9,772, 800 dollars and 74, 000 pounds (9.7 million dollars and 74, 000 pounds) in a safe.
Yakubu was, however, arraigned on March 16, 2017 on six counts but was ordered by the Court of Appeal to defend counts 3 and 4 which bordered on failure to make full disclosure of assets, receiving cash without going through a financial institution and intent to avoid a lawful transaction.
The EFCC alleged that the offence contravened the provisions of Section 1(1) of the Money Laundering Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the Act.
In his ruling yester-day, Justice Mohammed said it was not in doubt that by the judgment of the Court of Appeal alluded to above, the defendant (Yakubu) was specifically ordered to enter his defence on counts three and four only while being discharged of other counts.
“To determine whether Exhibit J is relevant for determination of counts three and four, I deem it as expedient at this stage,” he said.
Making reference to count three and four, the judge noted that it was alleged that Yakubu received the cash payments of 9.7 million dollars and 74, 000 pounds and thereby committed offence punishable under the relevant Act
Mohammed, who cited sections of the Evidence Act, described relevance as logically connected and tending to prove or disprove a matter or an issue.
He held that relevancy is the heart beat of laws of evidence.
“I equally find no hesitation in discountenancing the submission of the learner counsel to prosecution that the case applies only to civil cases,” he said.
He then upheld the argument of the defence counsel that there was a limit a party could be allowed to cross-examine a witness.
The judge ruled that Exhibit J was not relevant to the prove or disprove of counts three and four of the charge for which the defendant was standing trial.
“To allow the prosecution cross-examine the defendant on the contents of Exhibit “ J” which have already found to be irrelevant will amount to absolute waste of precious judicial time,” he said.
Justice Mohammed, who noted that counsel to the prosecution was only approbating and reprobating in his argument, therefore sustained the objection of the defence counsel.
“The prosecution is not allowed to cross-examine the DW1 on the contents of Exhibit J which exhibit is not relevant to counts three and four now pending before the court,” he ruled.
The judge adjourned the matter until Nov. 30 for trial continuation.
NAN reports Abubakar, told the court that Exhibit J was relevant in proving whether or not there had been a predicate offence to counts three and four.
According to him, we further submit that the same Exhibit J is also relevant to some matters which DW1 has testified about both in evidence-in-chief and under cross-examination.
NUT Tasks NASS On Teachers’ 65 Years Retirement Age Bill Passage
The Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), has urged the national assembly to expedite action on passage of the Harmonised Retirement Age for Teachers in Nigeria Bill 2021.
The Secretary-General of NUT, Dr Mike Ike-Ene, made the appeal in an interview with The Tide yesterday in Abuja.
He said the passage of the bill and its eventual signing into law by the President would go a long way in giving teachers the hope that their profession was being given the needed attention.
Ike-Ene said the hope of passage of the bill on June 30, having been mentioned on the Order Paper, was dashed because of the controversy that followed the debate on the Petroleum Industry Bill, now an Act.
“We are expecting that as the national assembly has resumed, the bill will be one of the first few bills to be passed.
“We expected the bill to be passed on June 30 concurrently by the two houses having been mentioned on the Order Paper but the debate of the Petroleum Industry Act and debate of the Electoral Reform Bill took the day.’’
The Secretary-General commended the National Assembly for its commitment to ensuring conclusion of work on the bill.
He expressed optimism that when passed, President Buhari would not hesitate in signing it into law.
He thanked the President for the effort to reposition the teaching profession, saying the union had been in the forefront in the struggle for elongation of tenure for teachers, among other things.
According to him, we have actually been fighting for some of the things the President promised to do for teachers, for instance, the elongation of years.
“We have been agitating for 65 years retirement age or 40 years by service and one of the reasons for the agitation is that we discovered that about 26 states did not recruit a single teacher for over 20 years.
“Yet teachers were retiring in their dozens, in hundreds and more deaths were being recorded as a result of the growing insecurity, particularly in schools.
“Some died naturally, others were resigning, yet teachers were not being employed.”
He further said, “We have also been agitating for Teachers Special Salary Structure (TSS) but hazard allowance was granted instead.
“The hazard allowance accumulated to 27.5 per cent of the basic of teachers’ salaries which were not what we were agitating for.
“We thank God that the Buhari’s administration has promised to implement the TSS and since that pronouncement, NUT, government and other stakeholders have been working to ensure implementation.’’
Ike-Ene disclosed that the promise made to teachers by the president would be implemented at different levels, stressing that while some would be passed into law, others would be implemented as policies.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in June, transmitted a letter on a Bill to increase the retirement age for teachers from 60 years to 65 years.
The Bill also seeks to extend the years of service for teachers from 35years to 40 years.
Meanwhile, the president at the commemoration of the World Teachers Day on October 5, 2020, approved a special salary scale for teachers and special pension scheme.
He also said the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) will begin to fund teaching practice in universities and colleges of education.
He further promised to ensure provisions for rural posting allowance, science teachers allowance and peculiar allowance.
The president also promised sponsorship of at least one refresher training, construction of low-cost housing for teachers in rural areas and reintroduction of bursary award.
Other promises are, expansion of the annual Presidential Teachers and Schools Awards and payment of stipends to Bachelor of Education students and automatic employment after graduation.
Traffic Congestion: FG Builds Three Flyovers, Interchange
The Federal Government is collaborating with Ogun State Government to secure the Right of Way (RoW) for the construction of three bridges and an interchange on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
The Minister of Works and Housing, Mr Babatunde Fashola, said this during an inspection of the highway last Wednesday.
Fashola, who was joined by Gov. Dapo Abiodun at the Lotto Bridge under construction, said the highway accommodated over 40,000 vehicles daily, hence the urgent need for additional flyovers and interchanges for decongestion.
The bridges are under construction at Makun, MFM and Lotto (Mowe) areas on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway.
“We are trying to execute an interchange that will separate the main carriageway and give commuters choice, especially those going to religious places to worship, those going to universities and so on and so forth.
“So that what used to cause the congestion is limited to the barest minimum if not totally eradicated when the road is finished.
“So, we now require additional land to build the interchange, that is why I called the governor (Dapo Abiodun),” he said.
He said that the Buhari administration inherited several stalled projects which he was committed to completing by adequately funding the projects
Fashola expressed satisfaction with progress of work on the ongoing reconstruction/rehabilitation of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
On his part, Gov. Abiodun assured that the state government would give all the land and support needed.
Earlier, the Federal Controller of Works in Lagos, Mr Olukayode Popoola, gave the measurements and dimensions needed for the bridges and interchange.
Popoola also gave details on the number of buildings and services on the Right of Way of the bridges which, without paying compensations, would stall the project.
He said that section one of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway project, which spans from Ojota in Lagos to Sagamu Interchange, “has achieved 56 per cent completion”.
Also, during inspection of section two of the project, which spans from the Sagamu Interchange to Ojoo in Ibadan, the Federal Controller of Works in Ogun, Mr Umar Bakare, said that the section was 63 per cent completed.
NEDC Flags Off Construction Of 500 Housing Units In Bauchi
North-East Development Commission (NEDC) in collaboration with the Bauchi State Government has commenced the construction of 500 mass housing units in Bauchi, to address housing deficit in the state.
NEDC’s Managing Director, Alhaji Mohammed Goni-Alkali, stated this at the ground breaking ceremony of the project yesterday in Bauchi.
Goni-Alkali said that 300 houses would be built in Bauchi metropolis while 200 others would be spread across the 20 local government areas of the state.
According to him, the project is to ease the accommodation problems as well as fast track the rapid social and economic development of the state, to mitigate the devastation caused by the insurgency.
Goni-Alkali said that the commission had so far constructed 1,000 housing units in Marte LGA of Borno, adding that the houses had been handed over to the state government.
He said that the commission would also construct one primary school in each of the senatorial districts across the six states in the region, to promote educational development.
The managing director said that the commission had presented food and non-food items to the Bauchi State Government for distribution to the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs).
He listed the items to include 10,000 bags of rice; 2,000 bags of sugar; 10,000 gallons of palm oil; 3,000 cartons of pasta; 2,000 blankets; 2,000 plastic mats and 1,000 mosquito nets.
In his remarks, Gov. Bala Mohammed, lauded the impact of the commission in the North-East with regard to the construction of schools and roads.
Mohammed also commended NEDC for the provision of other essential services since inception in 2019.
He said that the commission had constructed one block of six classrooms each across the 20 local government areas of the state.
“We have recieved the intervention of the commission in health and agriculture,” he said.
Mohammed promised to distribute the donated items judiciously to the deserving families.
The Goni-Alkali and other officials of the commission would inspect road projects in Alkaleri and Kirfi, and Visco Vaginal Fistula (VVF) Centre in Ningi
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