…Grants Ex-NNPC GMD, Yakubu Leave to Travel for Medical
Justice A. R. Mohammed of the Federal High Court has adjourned to April 11, 2018 for ruling on the admissibility of bank statements tendered by the The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, through its seventh witness, Chidi Eboigbe in the corruption trial of former national Chariman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Haliru Bello and his son, Bello Abba Mohammed.
Eboigbe, a compliance officer with Eco Bank who was led in evidence by Oluwaleke Atolagbe, counsel to the EFCC, said he had a responsibility to act as a liaison officer to law enforcement agencies as well as bank regulators.
The PW7 told the court that he received a request from EFCC to furnish the Commission with some documents regarding the account of Kumugomo Ltd which included – account opening documents, statement of account, certificate of identification and covering letter bearing official letter-head of Eco Bank.
The prosecution, thereafter, sought to tender the document in evidence.
However, Bello’s counsel, Solomon Umoh, SAN, objected to the admissibility of the documents on the ground that they were not frontloaded and that he never had the opportunity to see the documents before they were tendered.
Umoh added that the covering letter dated May 21, 2017 as well as certificate of identification dated May 22, 2017 did not form part of the proof of the evidence before the court.
He submitted that “the document are undoubtedly irrelevant and will not serve any useful purpose to the proceeding. Admissibility is governed by relevancy and purpose. Section 379 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 makes it mandatory for the prosecution to file in the registry and make it available for the defence, including list of exhibits to be tendered”.
He urged to discountenance the documents and mark it ‘rejected’.
Other counsel in the matter aligned themselves with his argument and submission.
Responding, Atolagbe said though the covering letter and the certificate of identification were not contained in the frontloaded documents, he however argued that the prosecution under Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) has the duty to furnish the defendant with facilities that would help its case. He cited Section 379 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 to support his argument.
Atolagbe argued further “that it is on record that the statement of account sought to be tendered and the account opening documents were duly frontloaded and by frontloading the account statement and account opening package Section 36 (6b) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) has been duly complied with”.
He said the certificate of identification was just to comply with the provisions of the Evidence Act, adding that “the covering letter does not go to the substance of the case against defendant”.
He submitted that all the Sections mentioned in the practice direction had all been complied with.
After heated argument, Justice Mohammed adjourned for ruling.
Haliru Bello, his son, Bello Abba Mohammed and their Company, Bam Project and Properties Ltd are facing trial on a four-count charge of money laundering to the tune of N300million, which they allegedly collected from the Office of the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) .
In a related development, Justice Mohammed also adjourned to May 10, 2018 for continuation of the corruption trial involving Andrew Yakubu, former Group Managing Director, GMD, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.
The adjournment is to enable the defendant travel for medical treatment.
Yakubu’s counsel, Ahmed Raji, SAN, had through an application dated February 26, 2018 sought leave of the court for the defendant to travel to the United Kingdom for a period of eight weeks for medical treatment and prayed for the release of his international passport.
The judge granted the application as Ben Ikani, representing the prosecution, raised no objection.
Yakubu, is facing trial on a six-count charge, bordering on money laundering and false declaration of assets.
Trouble 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 (Nine Million, Seven Hundred and Seventy Two Thousand United States Dollars) and £74,000 (Seventy Four Thousand Pound Sterling) stashed in a huge fire proof safe.
Yakubu, while admitting ownership of the monies, claimed it was gifts given to him by friends and well wishers and also savings accumulated over a period of years.