A Federal High Court in Abuja has rejected an application by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to amend its charge in the $9.8million, £74,000 fraud trial of an ex-Group Managing Director (GMD) of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Andrew Yakubu.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed, in a ruling, yesterday, held that granting the application by the EFCC would amount to varying a subsisting judgment given by the Court of Appeal, Abuja on April 24, 2020, where it, among others, ordered Yakubu to enter defence in relation to counts three and four of the six counts originally contained in the charge on which he was arraigned.
Justice Mohammed was emphatic that allowing the prosecution (the EFCC) to amend the charge was tantamount to disobeying the subsisting order made by the Court of Appeal in its judgment of April 24, 2020.
The EFCC claimed that its operatives, acting on a tip-off, raided Yakubu’s house located on Chikun Road, Sabon Tasha area of Kaduna South Local Government Area of Kaduna State on February 3, 2017, and recovered the $9,772,800 and £74,000 cash kept in a fire proof safe.
It arraigned Yakubu on March 16, 2017, on a six-count charge relating to money laundering offences.
He was among others, accused of failing to make full disclosure of assets, receiving cash without going through a financial institution, which borders on money laundering and intent to avoid a lawful transaction under law, transported at various times to Kaduna, the aggregate sum of $9,772,800 and £74,000.
The prosecution closed its case on October 17, 2018, after calling seven witnesses.
The seventh prosecution witness, an operative of the EFCC, Suleiman Mohammed, spoke about how his team recovered the $9,772,000 and £74,000 cash in Yabubu’s house in Kaduna, which was later deposited in CBN in Kano.
At the closure of the prosecution’s case, Yakubu made a no-case submission, which Justice Mohammed, in a ruling on May 16, 2019, partially upheld by striking out two of the six counts contained in the charge and ordered Yakubu to enter defence in relation to the remaining four counts.
The judge was of the view that the prosecution failed to prove counts five and six of the charge, which related to allegation of unlawful transportation of the money.
“Even though I am tempted to discharge the defendant on counts one to four, I am, however, constrained to ask the defendant to explain how he came about the monies recovered from his house.
“Fortified with my position, the defendant is hereby ordered to enter his defence in respect of counts one to four,” Justice Mohammed said in the May 16, 2019, ruling.
Dissatisfied, Yakubu challenged the decision at the Court of Appeal, Abuja, which, in a ruling on April 24, 2020, upheld Justice Mohammed’s ruling and proceeded to strike out two more counts – one and two – in the charge.
The Court of Appeal, then, ordered Yakubu to enter his defence in respect of the remaining two counts – three and four.
Proceedings later resumed at the Federal High Court, with the defendant commencing his defence as ordered by the Court of Appeal.
But, on March 10 this year, the prosecution applied for leave to amend its charge, arguing among others, that the law allows the prosecution to amend charge at any stage of the proceedings before judgment.
The defence countered, arguing that the Court of Appeal, in its judgment of April 24, 2020, made an order to guide further proceedings in the trial.
It noted that the Court of Appeal ordered that the defendant was only to enter defence in relation to counts three and four in respect of which a prima facie case was established.
The defence urged the court to refuse the prosecution’s application for amendment and allow the defendant to continue with his defence, a prayer Justice Mohammed granted in his ruling, yesterday.
When the judge ended the ruling, yesterday, the defence indicated its intention to proceed with its case, but the court elected to adjourn till June 30 following plea by the prosecution for an adjournment on the grounds that the lead prosecuting lawyer was not immediately available.
Minister, CSO Want Justice System Reviewed
The stakeholders made the call at a national conference on justice system with the theme ‘Nigerian Criminal Justice System: The Criminalisation of Poverty in Nigeria’, in Abuja, last Thursday.
The conference was organised by a civil society organisation, Rule of Law and Accountability Advocacy Centre (RULAAC) to examine Nigeria’s dysfunctional criminal justice system, which they said unequally and disproportionately affected the poor and the most vulnerable in the society.
Minister of Women Affairs, Mrs Pauline Tallen, said it was imperative to review the justice system to support people faced with economic obstacles, rather than incarcerating them.
Represented by an Assistant Legal Adviser in the ministry, Mrs Kenechi Umeh, Tallen frowned at laws that incarcerate people who are unable to pay debts, fines, bail bond, accentuate poverty rather than solve it.
“Criminalisation of petty offences such as prostitution, common nuisance, alms begging, street hawking, environmental offences and neighborhood disputes accentuate poverty among the poor and vulnerable.
“There is need to re-evaluate and improve awareness on the impact of the justice system as it relates to petty offences, including applying standards and principles of human rights in protecting the poor and promoting equality and fairness”, she said.
Tallen also advocated a well thought-out poverty alleviation programmes that entail technological skills acquisition, vocational training, micro-lending intervention solutions as panacea to poverty.
Also speaking at the conference, the Executive Director, RULAAC, Okechukwu Nwanguma, said that the event was put together with a view to putting an end to the criminalisation of petty offences in Nigeria.
He said this was necessary because the criminal justice system in the country disproportionately affects the poor.
Nwanguma noted that there were situations where people were sent to jail for stealing yam while ‘big men’ who steal huge amount of money get away with their crimes.
He said, “The notion of criminalisation of poverty manifests more in law enforcement than other sectors.
“Whether it is the police providing security cover for the demolition of settlements inhabited by the poor who are thereby rendered homeless while the settlements from which they have been displaced are apportioned to the rich or task forces enforcing bans on street hawking or Okada riding, or on the use of pedestrian bridges.
“While it may be justifiable to demolish certain settlements or enforce certain bans, as long as the legal procedures are followed, the poor are often the victims of law enforcement excesses in the course of the enforcement of these state or federal laws or rules and regulations.
“The poor constitute the majority of those who end up in prison for being unable to pay bribes for bail at police stations’’.
The RULAAC Director also noted that the poor constitute the majority of persons awaiting trial and who may never have the chance to appear in court again after the initial arraignment, as they may be forgotten by the system.
“Petty crimes committed by the poor attract more law enforcement action than big crimes committed by the rich.
“More often, the rich have the means and ways and can hire Senior Advocates or buy their ways through.
“So, criminal justice in Nigeria, just like human rights violation, has a social class bias targeting mainly the poor and the most vulnerable in Nigeria.
“We think that the criminal justice system that criminalises the people needs to be addressed”, he added.
Nwanguma, therefore, said it was imperative to reform the judiciary system to become fair and just, while also ensuring speedy dispensation of justice and equal protection to both the poor and the rich, without discrimination.
The keynote speaker, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, who spoke on the topic ‘Criminalisation of Poverty in Nigeria, the Dimension, Effects and Solutions’, said that criminal law and its institutions provide the framework to which lawful society defends itself and its values.
Odinkalu stressed the need to train the judiciary, decriminalise the polity and empower citizens to create a more egalitarian society.
Ondo Pastor In Police Net Over Kidnap Of 77 Persons
The victims include 54 adults and 23 kids.
Anifowoshe, who is the pastor of Whole Bible Deliverance Church, located in Valentino Area of Ondo West Local Government Area of the state, was arrested by the police when some people in the neighbourhood raised an alarm.
According to sources in the area, the victims were found in an underground apartment of the church last Friday evening.
The Tide learnt that the pastor and his assistant camped the victims in the church under the pretence that they were waiting for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
Parents of the children were said to have forcefully mobilised themselves to the church, inviting the police to arrest the pastor and his assistant.
Some of the children and their parents were also said to be attending the church prior to the incident.
According to sources, the police promptly stepped into the situation by arresting the culprit and other members of the church following a tip-off by parents who reported the case to the police in Ondo town.
The incident has also gone viral on social media. In a 40-second video, children were seen in a patrol vehicle of the police who rescued them.
“They have kidnapped children found in the underground cell of a church in the Valentino Area of Ondo. The pastor and some members of the church have been arrested and were also in the patrol van of the police”, a voice said in the video.
Ondo State Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Funmilayo Odunlami, who confirmed the incident while briefing journalists in Akure, said the parents raised the alarm and the police sprang into action.
Odunlami urged the people to remain calm, assuring that the command had begun proper investigation into the matter “and the mystery behind the crime would be unraveled”.
Sen Akwashiki Donates N10m To CAN
This, he said, was to enable them purchase land and 18- seater bus for the association to offer special prayers for the nation and perform its work effectively.
Akwashiki, who is the Chairman, Senate Committee on Employment, Labour and Productivity made the donation at the end of a three-day CAN Summit in Akwanga on Sunday.
He said that the donation was part of his continued commitment to the development of the church and the society at large.
“I have heard your request on land for your permanent secretariat, a bus and office equipment to enable the association function effectively.
“I want to give you N5 million for the purchase of land and N5 million for the purchase of 18-seater bus, making N10 million.
“If you bought the land, I want you to start the foundation immediately as I will continue to support religious activities to succeed,” he said.
Akwashiki assured of his continued commitment to provide infrastructure across his senatorial district for improved standard of living.
“I will continue to provide roads, electricity, hospitals, schools, empowerment and employment, among others, in order to make you and other people happy at all times,” he said.
The lawmaker however advised the CAN leadership to carry all members of the association along while taking decisions concerning the association.
“I want to advise that you consult well if you want to take any decision concerning CAN,” he said.
The senator urged them to pray for him to succeed as well as to pray for unity and peace of the country.
Earlier, Rev. Ogbonna Akuma, the CAN Chairman, said that the summit was aimed at uniting and promoting peace amongst members of the association.
He restated their continued commitment to preach the message of unity, peace, progress and development to its members and other Nigerians at all times.
The chairman appreciated Akwashiki and other personalities for their positive contributions to the development of the church and the society at large.
He, however, identified their challenges to include land, bus and office equipment, among others.
The Tide source reports that the summit featured presentation of merit awards to Akwashiki; Sen. John Danboyi; Mr David Abuluya, President, Eggon Cultural and Development Association (ECDA); and Chief Adams Nangba, the District Head of Wakama, among others .
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