A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed a charge of fraud brought against former Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Abdullahi Dikko and two others by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC).
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu, in a ruling on Wednesday, dismissed the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/21/2019, following an oral application by ICPC’s lawyer, E. A. Sogunle to withdraw the charge, citing Section 108 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015.
Dikko was named, in the charge, with two others – a former Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs in charge of Finance, Administration and Technical Services, Garba Makarfi and Umar Hussaini, a lawyer and owner of Capital Law Office – as defendants.
Dikko, Makarfi and Hussaini were, among others, accused of inducing the Managing Director of Cambial Limited, Yemi Obadeyi, to pay N1.1 billion (N1,100, 952,380.96) into the account of Capital Law Office as a refundable “completion security deposit” for the purchase of 120 units of duplexes as residential accommodation for officers of the Nigeria Customs Service.
Hussaini was said to have distributed the money into various other bank accounts, allegedly at the instance of the ex-Customs boss.
The prosecution added that, for his part in the deal, Hussaini was rewarded with $3 million.
At the mention of the case on Wednesday, Sogunle told the court that, despite a bench warrant issued on Dikko, who has not attended court since the charge was filed early last year, the prosecution has been unable to arrest him and produce him in court.
Sogunle added: “My lord, at the last adjourned date, the 1st defendant (Dikko) was conspicuously absent and the court mandated the prosecution to investigate his whereabouts.
“In our effort to do this, we wrote to the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), who replied that they have no record of the 1st defendant either travelling in or outside of Nigeria between January 2020 and till date.
“In the circumstances, we have filed an affidavit of compliance with the court’s directive that we find out his whereabouts. This affidavit is to show the steps we have taken so far.
“We do not want to clog the court’s docket with this matter. We are convinced that the 1st defendant is a fugitive from law. We are taking every steps to apprehend him. When we do that, we will bring him before the court.
”In the circumstance, we wish to withdraw the charge, pursuant to Section 108 of ACJA, without prejudice to whenever he is apprehended,” Sogunle said.
Responding, Solomon Akuma (SAN), who led Mahmud Magaji (SAN) for Dikko, did not object to the prosecution’s application to withdraw the charge.
Yakubu Maikyau (SAN) and A. H Obariko, who appeared for Makarfi and Hussaini, also did not object to the application to withdraw.
While Makarfi was in court, Hussaini was absent. His lawyer said he could not make his way to Abuja from Bauchi in view of the current restriction of inter-state. movement.
After listening to the lawyers, Justice Ojukwu said since the prosecution applied to withdraw the charge and the defendants did not object, she was minded to dismiss the charge and proceeded to do so.
Justice Ojukwu had, on February 17 this year, upon an application by the prosecution, issued a bench warrant for Dikko’s arrest and production for the purpose of his arraignment.
The judge ordered the prosecution to ascertain the claim by Dikko’s lawyer that he was on admission in a London hospital.
It was in response to the court’s order that the prosecution ascertain whether or not Dikko was in a London hospital that Sogunle reported yesterday that the NIS informed his agency that the ex-NCS boss has not left the country since January this year.