EFCC Arraiags Art Gallery DG, 4 other over N1billion fraud
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Monday July 20, 2009 arraigned Chief Joe Musa, the Director General of the National Gallery of Art along with four others on a 12 count charge of criminal misappropriation, criminal conversion of public funds ,falsification of account, and illegal opening of account before Justice Olukayode Adgbola Adeniyi of the FCT High Court, Lugbe, Abuja.
Other top officials of the Gallery arraigned with the DG, are Olusegun Ogunba, Director of Finance, Mrs. Oparagu Elizabeth, Deputy Director, Admin, Dr. Kweku Tandoh, Director, Research and Planning and Chinedu Obi ,Special Assistant to the Director General .
The accused were at different times between august 2006 and April 2009 alleged to have diverted the sum of N1,012,130,500 (One billion, Twelve Million, One Hundred and Thirty Thousand, Five Hundred Naira )
Count one of the charge reads; “That you, Chief Joe Musa being the Director General of the National Gallery of Art, Olusegun Ogunba being the Director Finance, Dr. Kweku Tandoh being the Director,Research and Education,Mrs. Oparagu Elizabeth being the Deputy Director, Admin, and Mr. Chinedu Obi being the Special Assistant to the Director General ,Chief Joe Musa on or about the 1st day of August 2006 to April 2009 in Abuja within the Jurisdiction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory did dishonestly converted to your own use the sum of N670,000,000 (Six Hundred and Seventy Million Naira) ,property of the National Gallery of Art, and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 309 of the penal Code Cap 532 of the Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, (Abuja) ”
When the case came up for arraignment, prosecution counsel, Steve Odiase informed the court that EFCC in the spirit of rule of law had filed a motion seeking for an abridgment of time from Thursday 23rd July to Monday 20th July to arraign the accused persons, one of who had travelled to Algeria. “ Rather than arresting and keeping the accused persons in custody till Thursday, and as the DG, Chief Joe Musa has returned from Algeria, we feel we need not take much time than to arraign the accused persons”, he stated.
All the accused persons however pleaded not guilty to the charges and their counsel Valentine Offia sought to move for a motion for bail.
In a swift reaction, Odiase argued that having just being served the motion, he needed the statutory 48 hours to reply. His position irked the defence counsel who wondered why he should ask for time to reply when himself had asked for abridgment of time without prior notice to the accused persons.He later asked and got the Judge's nod to move his motion orally while discarding the written application.
Offia gave several reasons why his clients should be granted bail some of which were that the paramount reason for bail was for the accused to be available for trial. He also said that the first accused person who travelled to Algeria had on his own volition appeared for the trial when invited. He added that all the accused persons did same without any persuasion. “Their conduct is not that of those who intend to delay trial”, he said.
The defence counsel further said that the accused persons are all civil servants whose bio data including next of kin and addresses are in the public domain.
Odiase, on his own part objected the granting of bail by arguing that the defence counsel had not presented sufficient material for the court to grant bail to the accused. He also said that being senior civil servants, the accused persons would likely obstruct investigation which was on-going.
Justice Adeniyi in his ruling concurred with the defence counsel that the accused persons needed to be free to stand trial. This he said was very crucial in any trial.He equally pointed out that they are presumed innocent until proven guilty saying that for prosecution to bring the accused for trial,it is assumed that they had concluded their investigations.
He thereafter granted all the accused persons and ordered that they be remanded in Kuje prison pending when they are able to meet the following bail conditions:
•1 surety in like sum
•Surety must be civil servant of not less than grade level 16
•Must swear affidavit of means
•Must produce 3 years tax clearance certificate from Federal Inland Revenue Service(FIRS)
•Must have landed property within the court's jurisdiction with verifiable documents to support such.
•Deposit all travelling documents including International Passports.
•The case has been adjourned to 19 and 20 October,2009.
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