N13.5bn Arms Scam: Court remands Dasuki, Salisu, Babakusa, others in EFCC custody

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Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, Maitama, Abuja, has ordered that a former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki (rtd.), and four others standing trial on a 19-count charge bordering on money laundering and criminal breach of trust to the tune of N13.57 billion be remanded in the EFCC custody.

The court has however fixed Friday December 18, 2015 for ruling on their bail application.

Dasuki alongside Shuaibu Salisu, a former Director of Finance and Administration, Office of the National Security Adviser; Aminu Babakusa, a former General Manager, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation; Acacia Holdings Limited and Reliance Referral Hospital Limited are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

One of the counts reads: “That you, Col. Mohammed Dasuki( rtd.), whist being the National Security Adviser and Shuaibu Salisu, whilst being the Director of Finance and Administration in the Office of the National Security Adviser, and Hon. Warripamowei Dudafa(now at large), whilst being Senior Special Assistant, Domestic Affairs to the President, on or about 27th November, 2014 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court entrusted with Dominion over certain properties, to wit: the sum of N10 billion being part of the funds in the account of the National Security Adviser with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the equivalent of which sum you received from the Central Bank of Nigeria in foreign currency to wit: $47 million and 5.6 million Euros, committed criminal breach of trust in respect of the said property when you claimed to have distributed same to the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) presidential primary election delegates and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 315 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 532, Vol.4 LFN 2004.”

Moving his application for bail at Tuesday’s hearing, Ahmed Raji, SAN, counsel to Dasuki, pleaded with the court to admit him (Dasuki) to bail pending the determination of the charges preferred against him by the prosecution.

Raji, who cited Sections 153, 162, 165, 167 and 168 (b) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act as well as Sections 35 and 36( 5) and 6(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended, further told the court that “under the Constitution, an accused is presumed innocent, no matter the gravity of the charge before the court. Also, Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 has made bail possible in all cases.”

He further urged the court to discountenance the argument moved by the prosecution counsel in his counter- affidavit that the first defendant would interfer with further investigation into his case.

While pleading with the court to seriously consider the ruling of the Federal High Court, Abuja that had earlier granted the first defendant bail in another matter in which he is standing trial, Raji said that “It will amount to internal inconsistency. I urge you, My Lord, to grant the first defendant bail on very liberal terms, even if you are not moved by the ruling by your brother at the Federal High Court.”

However, Justice Baba-Yusuf cut him in and told him that the case before him and the one in which the first defendant is standing trial at the Federal High Court, Abuja are different.

“Move the circumstances on which the bail should be granted and that is what will impress me,” Justice Baba-Yusuf said.

In his submission, counsel to the second defendant, A.U. Mustapha, also adopted his written address as his oral application in support of the bail application on behalf of the second defendant, Salisu.

While praying the court to admit the second defendant to bail, he said: “He has served the country meritoriously for 29 years. He is a responsible citizen of this country and he is ready to defend himself. He needs his liberty and unfettered access to his lawyer. He also needs to consult his books. So, he needs his freedom to be able to do all this.”

Meanwhile, Solomon Umoh, SAN, told the court that the charges preferred against the third, fourth and fifth defendants (Babakusa, Acacia Holdings Limited and Reliance Referral Hospital) respectively, did not suggest that the money alleged to have been diverted by the accused was for the purposes of procuring arms as canvassed in the counter-affidavit submitted by the prosecution.

According to him, “they have not been convicted before by any court and they don’t have any character of crime. My Lord, all that my learned friend has said in his counter-affidavit to the bail application is an invitation to my Lordship on a voyage of speculation.”

However, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, while opposing the bail application by the defendants, said references to the ruling of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in the case involving the first defendant, did not hold water, adding that they are two different cases.

According to him, “Money laundering is a secondary offence and not a primary offence. But the charges before My Lord here are primary offences. My learned friend didn’t tell My Lord whether his client was enjoying the bail granted him by the other court before he was transferred to us (EFCC). Every money laundering case has a predicate offence.”

Rotimi, who also stated that presumption of innocence, is not a sufficient ground for the accused persons to be granted bail, further told the court that the status of the first defendant would intimidate the prosecution witnesses who had worked under him.

According to him “they are not entitled to bail because they may jump bail. I recognise that the granting or refusal of bail is at the discretion of the court, but if they will interfere with investigation of other cases that will be instituted against them, you can refuse them bail. If bail application is filed, it is not automatic that it must be granted.”

While responding to the claim by counsel to the first defendant that the charges did not indicate that the alleged money was for procurement of arms, Rotimi said the proof of evidence showed the purposes for which the money was meant for, which was for the purchase of security equipment.

After listening to submissions by both counsels, Justice Baba-Yusuf fixed Friday, December 18, 2015 for ruling on the bail applications and ordered the accused persons to be remanded in the EFCC custody.

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