Abuja Court: Three Journalists Beaten By Suspect's Supporters
SAN FRANCISCO, April 10, (THEWILL) - Three journalists, namely Messrs Femi Ipaye (TheNews magazine), Jide Oyekunle (Daily Independent) and Rotimi Ósasona of National Mirror newspapers, were manhandled, Wednesday, at the premises of an Abuja High Court where the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) re-arraigned a suspended permanent secretary, Atiku Abubakar Kigo, and six others, before Justice Hussain Baba, over the N46 billion police pension fund scam.
Trouble started after the court proceedings as supporters of one of the suspects got annoyed with the journalists and started manhandling them for trying to take the photographs of the suspect .
The development, which left Osasona's camera badly damaged, would have degenerated into a free-for-all but for the superior reason that prevailed on the part of journalists.
The suspects were arraigned on an amended 18 count-charge of criminal breach of trust and conspiracy involving the sum of N46 billion belonging to the Police Pension Funds.
The 18-count (amended) charge is punishable under sections 97 and 315 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532, Laws of the Federal Capital Territory.
One of the suspects, who was absent during the previous arraignment of the other suspects, Mrs. Uzoma Cyril Attang, took her plea Wednesday.
"Attang who was absent in court when the others were first arraigned, was in charge of the police pension fund when N7.8billion was stolen through 10,863 cheques. She was also discovered to have personally signed 1,042 cheques to the tune of N1, 141,309,080.25.
"Investigation revealed that Mrs. Attang used several companies to defraud the Police Pension Office. Some of the companies which she allegedly used are Royal Diadem Business Logistic Limited, Amazing Grace Property Development Company, Enyiuzo Ventures Limited, Status Symbols Rentals Limited, Status Travels and Tours Limited, Quillponte and Anifon Nigeria Limited", an EFCC statement said.
Aside Kigo and Attang, other accused persons are Esai Dangabar, Ahmed Inuwa Wada, Mrs Veronica Ulonma Onyegbula, Sani Habila Zira and Christian Madubuike.
They had earlier been arraigned alongside convicted pension thief, John Yusuf, before Justice Mohammed Talba.
However following the public outcry that greeted the sentence meted out to Yusuf, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission decided to withdraw the prosecution of the remaining suspects from Justice Talba.
Justice Talba had sentenced Yusuf to two years imprisonment but gave him the option to pay N750,000 fine, a sentence that angered the nation and drew uncomplimentary remarks against the nation's judiciary in the fight against corruption.
According to count one of the amended charge , the suspects allegedly conspired and agreed, between January 2008 and June 2011, to do an illegal act, to wit: criminal breach of trust in respect of the sum of N20.155 billion, an offence punishable under section 97 of the Penal Code Act, Cap 532, Laws of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. Nigeria 2007.
The accused persons pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
The court subsequently fixed their trial for June 3 and 4.
The judge ordered that the bail granted the accused persons by the former judge should continue to run in so far as they had complied with the bail conditions.
"In the same vein, the 6th accused (Attang) is granted bail on the same terms and conditions with other accused persons," the judge said , even as the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), decided not to oppose bail application, bearing in mind the fact that the case was transferred, thus clearing the coast for temporary freedom for the accused.