The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has arraigned a former Niger State governor, Muazu Babangida Aliyu and his Commissioner for Environment, Parks, Gardens and Forest Resources, Umar Mohammed Nasko, before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja on an eight-count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N1.46 billion.
One of the counts reads: “That you Dr. Muazu Babangida Aliyu (whilst being the Executive Governor of Niger State) and Umar Mohammed Nasko (whilst being the Commissioner for Environment, Parks, Gardens and Forest Resources in Niger State) on or about 23rd July, 2014 within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did indirectly take control of the aggregate sum of N478.4 million out of the sum of N487.4 million paid by the Niger State Ministry of Environment, Parks, Gardens and Forest Resources to MJ Eco Projects Limited for environmental/ecological consultancy project awarded to the company in respect of Zone B of Niger State which money you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an offence unlawful act to wit: corruption and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15(2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act.”
They pleaded “not guilty” to all the charges.
In view of the plea, the prosecution counsel, Prince Ben Ikani, asked for a date for trial to commence, and urged the court to remand the defendants in prison custody.
Counsel to Aliyu, Olajide Ayodele, SAN, however, urged the court to admit his client to bail.
“There is a summons, which seeks for the application to be heard and if the court is ready the application will be heard as the prosecution has been served with it,” Ayodele said.
However, Ikani told the court that he was yet to be served with the motion for Aliyu’s bail but had received that of Nasko. “We are interested in a speedy trial,” Ikani said.
Earlier in the proceedings, Mamman Osman, SAN, brought before the court a preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court. His argument was however, countered by Ikani, who quoting Section 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, noted that “the application is premature as the business of the day is for the arraignment”.
Justice Dimgba, thereafter, granted bail to the defendants in the sum of N200million with two sureties each, who must be a public servant or a professional not less than the rank of a Director.
“The sureties must own houses in Abuja Metropolis excluding the satellite towns. The defendants are also to deposit their international passports with the registrar of the court and must not travel except with the permission of the court,” the trial judge ruled.
The Court Registrar and the EFCC are to verify and ensure that the bail conditions are met within 48 hours and if not they are to be remanded in Kuje Prison.
The matter has been adjourned to July 6 and 7, 2017 for commencement of trial.
It would be recalled that the EFCC had on April 25, 2017 arraigned the two defendants before the Niger State High Court on a six-count charge bordering on misappropriation of public funds, and “diversion of proceeds of the sale of 16 per cent shares of the sale of Niger State in the North South Power Company Limited”.