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Dilemma over endless trial of PEPs



Dilemma over endless trial of PEPs

Apart from scores of former governors whose trials have lasted between seven and 10 years, some other high profile cases involving politically exposed persons (PEPs) are still stuck in courts. AKEEM NAFIU and TUNDE OYESINA profile some of the cases and why they have been delayed as courts have again adjourned further hearing to 2018



Although there are misgivings on the operation of the Economic and Financial Crimes Corruption (EFCC) among Nigerians, one obvious fact about the agency is that its activities have shown clearly that corrupt practices permeate every sector of the nation’s economy.

Notwithstanding occasional skirmish in the discharge of its duties which had branded its operation as selective, EFCC under the leadership of Mr Ibrahim Magu has shown that it was ready to fight corruption to a standstill.

This was amplified on some of the convictions it secured in the outgoing year even as none of the convictions could be found in the category of the high profile cases.
Some of the high profile cases which commenced between seven and 10 years included those involving some former bank chief executives: Sebastine Adigwe (Afribank),Okey Nwosu (Finbank), Erastus Akingbola (Intercontinental Bank), Cecilia Ibru (Oceanic Bank) and Bath Ebong (Union Bank). Others affected are some former governors like a former Oyo state governor, Senator Rashidi Ladoja and former Enugu state governor, Chimaroke Nnamani.

The former spokesperson of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Olisa Metuh and former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Ziadeke Akpobolokemi, were also in the midst.

For instance, of the five former bank chief executives, only the case against Ibru had been concluded having pleaded guilty.
She was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for mismanaging depositors’ funds and granting credit facilities worth $20 million and N2 billion far above CBN’s approved limit.
Ibru forfeited assets worth N191 billion, comprising 94 choice property in the United States and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.
Besides, she gave up shares in about 80 listed companies on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) and in 20 unlisted companies.

Ex-Enugu governor, Chimaroke Nnamani
The former governor’s travail started in 2007 after completing two terms in office when he was arraigned before Justice Tijani Abubakar of a Federal High Court in Lagos by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over an alleged N4.5billion fraud.

He was docked alongside one of his aides, Sunday Anyaogu, and six companies which the former governor allegedly set up while he held sway as Enugu State governor.
The companies are; Rainbownet Nigeria Limited, Cosmos FM, Capital City Automobile Nigeria Limited, Renaissance University Teaching Hospital, Cosmos FM and Mea Mater Elizabeth High School.

Following elevation of Justice Abubakar to the Court of Appeal, the defendants were again re-arraigned before Justice Charles Archibong.
The case lingered till the retirement of Justice Archibong and was later taken over by Justice Mohammed Yunusa, who was later dismissed from the Bench by the National Judicial Council (NJC) over alleged corrupt practices.

However, before Justice Yunusa’s removal from the Bench and in a bid to fast track the hearing of the case, the anti-graft agency on May 19, 2015, re-arraigned four of the companies before the judge on an amended 10-count charge for various roles they played in the alleged financial crime by Nnamani.

The anti-graft agency said it needed to try the companies separately from Nnamani and three others, to fast track the trial so as to prevent their assets from “being eroded.”
The four companies which assets were forfeited to the Federal Government are: Renaissance University Teaching Hospital; Cosmos FM; Capital City Automobile Nigeria Limited and Rainbownet Nigeria Limited.

The companies’ forfeiture of assets and all the funds standing to their credit in various banks to the Federal Government was sequel to their conviction over the alleged fraud by the judge.
The schedule of the companies’ property filed before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) showed that the companies had landed property, shares and equipment jointly numbering about 81 and scattered across various locations in Enugu, Abakaliki, Aba, Owerri, Onitsha and Umuahia.

The assets of the companies were said to worth over N5 billion while the amount standing to their credit in 64 bank accounts was put at N34.8million.
Nnamani’s trial which has been stalled since July 7, 2015, when the assets and cash of four companies were forfeited to the Federal Government was reopened by the EFCC on December 4, 2017 following the re-assignment of the case to Justice Chuka Obiozor.

After the judge ordered the arrest of the former governor and his aide over their failure to appear in court on December 4, Nnamani filed an application challenging the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the case.
In it, he is seeking an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) from prosecuting him.

The court is expected to hear the application on January 19, 2018.

Senator Rashidi Ladoja
The trial of former governor Rashidi Ladoja of Oyo state is another high profile case that is yet to be concluded since 2008.
The former governor and one of his aides, Chief Waheed Akanbi, were first arraigned sometimes in 2008 by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before Justice Ramat Mohammed of a Federal High Court on a 10-count charge of alleged N4.7billion fraud.

The case was subsequently stalled for close to 9 years following a series of interlocutory applications filed by parties in the matter. It took the intervention of the Supreme Court for the case to be returned to the Federal High Court for hearing.

Upon the relisting of the case, Ladoja and Akanbi were on December 14, 2016, re-arraigned before Justice Mohammed Idris on an 8-count charge of alleged N4.7 billion fraud contrary to Section 17(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004 and punishable under Section 14(1) of the same Act. They however pleaded not guilty to the charge and were later granted bail.

There has been prompt hearing of the case since the defendants’ re-arraignment but their trial may again be stalled owing to the nomination of Justice Idris to the Appeal Court Bench by the National Judicial Council (NJC).

Former bank chiefs—Akingbola, Atuche, Nwosu and Adigwe
The trial of three of the sacked bank chiefs; Erastus Akingbola of the defunct Intercontinental Bank, over alleged N47.1 billion fraud, Francis Atuche of the defunct Bank PHB over an alleged N25.7 billion fraud and Okey Nwosu of the defunct Finbank Plc. over an alleged N18 billion fraud have been stalled since 2009 following their removal from office by a former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mallam Lamido Sanusi.

Sanusi had in 2009, petitioned the EFCC seeking investigation of Nwosu, Akingbola, Atuche and a former MD of the defunct Oceanic Bank, Mrs. Cecilia Ibru, who has since been convicted.
The bank chiefs were subsequently dragged to the Federal High Court in Lagos on money laundering charges. The anti-graft agency later initiated another charge of stealing against them before a Lagos High Court in Ikeja.

Nwosu, however, challenged the charge at the Lagos High Court on the ground that it was an abuse of court process as the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the case.
The Lagos High Court later dismissed his objection. Dissatisfied, Nwosu took the matter to the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division and won on November 21, 2014.
Subsequently, both Akingbola and Atuche argued that since their cases were identical with that of Nwosu, the charges against them should be struck out on the same grounds. The charges against the duo were later struck out by the appellate court.

The EFCC then took the matter to the Supreme Court for a final determination of the contentious issue.
The Supreme Court, in a lead judgment delivered by Justice Musa Muhammad upheld the appeal by the EFCC and set aside the decision of the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, which earlier quashed the charge against the bank chiefs on the grounds that it amounted to an abuse of court process.

The court in a unanimous judgment of a seven-man panel, comprising the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Walter Onnoghen, faulted the reasoning of the Court of Appeal in relation to its finding that the decision by the EFCC to charge Nwosu and directors at Finbank for stealing before the Lagos High Court while it simultaneously maintained a charge of money laundering against them on related facts at the Federal High Court would expose them to double jeopardy.

The apex court while remitting the case file back to the Lagos State Chief Judge for expeditious trial directed Nwosu and the Finbank directors to submit themselves for trial.
The judgement may have paved the way for the commencement of the trial of other ex-bank chiefs who had cases against them struck out owing to Nwosu’s application.

Patrick Ziadeke Akpobolokemi
The immediate past Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, has been facing different cases since December 3, 2015 over allegations of fraud while he held sway at NIMASA.

He was arraigned twice by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) within 48 hours at the Federal High Court in Lagos over alleged theft of N3.41 billion and N2.6 billion belonging to the agency.

In the first charge, he was arraigned alongside: Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Felix Bob-Nabena, Warredi Enisuoh, Amaechi Juan, Fredrick Ugo, Timi Alari and two companies, Al-Kenzo Ltd and Peniel Engineering Services Ltd.

The accused persons were arraigned before Justice Saliu Saidu of a Federal High Court in Lagos on a 30-count charge bordering on conspiracy and conversion to the tune of N3.41 billion.
However, in the second charge, Akpobolokemi was arraigned alongside Captain Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan and two companies; Blockz and Stonez limited and Al-Kenzo Logistic Limited.

They were arraigned before Justice Ibrahim Buba of a Federal High Court in Lagos over alleged conversion of N2.6 billion belonging to NIMASA to private use.
EFCC said the alleged offences contravened Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition/Amendment) Act of 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3).

The EFCC later slammed another 13-count charge of alleged N754.8 million fraud on the Ex-NIMASA boss and six others before Justice Raliat Adebiyi of an Ikeja High Court, Lagos.
Akpobolokemi was arraigned along with Captain Ezekiel Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Amechee Juan, Vincent Udoye, Captain Adegboyega Sahib Olopoenia and a company, Gama Marine Nigeria Limited.

Waripamo-Owei Dudafa
In 2016, a former Special Assistant to ex-President Jonathan on Domestic Affairs, Waripomo-Owei Dudafa, also made headlines for alleged fraud of $15.5 million and N5.1billion.
The cases continued this year and Dudafa is still spending time defending himself before Justices Mohammed Idris and Babs Kuewumi of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court where the EFCC is prosecuting him alongside others.

Olisa Metuh
Metuh is the former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He is standing trial before Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja, alongside his company, Destral Nig. Ltd.

Metuh was alleged to have received N400 million from the Office of a former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (Rtd). The money was said to be part of the fund meant for the purchase of arms to fight the Boko Haram insurgency.

After the prosecution had closed its case, Metuh filed a no case submission, but the application collapsed and the court ordered Metuh to enter defence.
In the course of Metuh’s defense, he initiated a motion to subpoena former President Goodluck Jonathan and Col. Sambo Dasuki to testify for him.
While Dasuki had appeared to testify, Jonathan is yet to honour the invitation.
The matter is however put on hold till 2018 to enable Jonathan appear in court.

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