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N1.3BN SCAM: COURT THROWS OUT EX-GOV BOATMANG'S APPLICATIONS AS TRIAL BEGINS

By NBF News
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A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja was yesterday, told that most of the cheques used to withdraw money from the account of Plateau State government during the less than six-month tenure of Michael Boatmang as governor, did not pass through the Cheque Movement Register, CMR, in the office of the Accountant -General.

Also, an attempt by the defence counsel, M. Y. Saleh, SAN, to discredit the petition addressed to the former Chairman of the EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, on June 15, 2007 and signed by the Executive Governor of Plateau State, Chief Jonah Jang, requesting the EFCC to investigate and help recover about N1. 3 billion withheld by the Intercontinental Bank PLC was over ruled by the presiding Judge, Justice G.K. Olotu at the resumed hearing of the criminal case filed against Boatmang by the EFCC yesterday.

Boatmang who was governor of Plateau between November 13, 2006 and April 9, 2007, was re-arraigned on July 27th, 2011, on a 31 count charge bordering on corruption, money laundering and embezzlement of public funds totaling $13.3 million (N1.5 billion) while he served for five months as the governor of the state.

At the resumed hearing of the case, Prosecution Witness, Mr. Adamu Garba, who is one of the investigating officers in the case, told the court that during the six months period, the state had two Accountants-General: Nuhu Madaki and Nanshai Binnai. Garba also told the court that Madaki made a voluntary statement where he admitted that the cheques used to withdraw money from the Intercontinental Bank were Classified Cheques and that the money was withdrawn and handed over to the accused person; adding that the cheques were not supposed to appear in the CMR.

When the petition by Jang was tendered as exhibit, the defence counsel opposed vehemently as he said that the letter was addressed to the former Chairman of the EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, and therefore cannot be tendered by any other person outside the former chairman of the Commission.

But Justice Olotu who showed no sign of entertaining frivolous applications on the matter told the defence counsel that there was no need to waste time on the document. 'Let us not waste time on this. This letter was addressed to the chairman of the EFCC in 2007; any other officer of the EFCC can present the same letter today. The accused person's objection to the admissibility of the document in evidence is over ruled and marked exhibit 3', she ruled. The statements written by the Business Manager, Intercontinental bank, Jos, Mr. Danjuma Usman, and the two Accountants General as well as the two statements of the former governor being prosecuted were equally admitted in evidence.

In the statement of the accused which was read by Mr. Garba, Boatmang had said that N100 million of the N1.3 billion for which he is being prosecuted was a loan taken from Bank PHB on the orders of the PDP leadership to prosecute the 2007 election as he said that the then President Olusegun Obasanjo gave him a mandate to ensure the victory of all the PDP candidates who stood for the 2007 election in Plateau state. He also wrote in the statement he volunteered that N750 million which was taken from Intercontinental Bank as a loan for the construction of Jos main Market was diverted to the payment of teachers salary upon approval of former president Olusegun Obasanjo.

While adjourning the case till November 17 and 24, 2011, the judge warned that she would not entertain any unnecessary and frivolous applications that would delay the case. She said the two days is for the prosecution to complete and close its case. It would be recalled that Boatmang, was first arraigned before Justice Anwuri Chikere. But the case suffered several setbacks following his ailment and transfer of Judges who earlier handled the case. Aside from Justice Chikere, Justice Muhammad Umar also handled the case before he was also transferred. Justice Olotu is the third judge handling the case.

The embattled former governor became the governor of the North-central state of Plateau on November 13, 2006 after his boss, Chief Joshua Chibi Dariye was impeached from office.