N15bn Fraud: 'You have a case to answer'- Court Tells Ex -Gov Adamu, 11 others
A Federal High Court sitting in Lafia, Nassarawa state, has dismissed an application brought before it by a former Governor of Nassarawa state, Alhaji Abdulahi Adamu and eleven other accused persons, seeking for the quashing of the case against them, saying that they have a case to answer and should be prepared to face trial. They are standing trial on a case of looting Nassarawa's state treasury to the tune of N15billion during Adamu's eight years tenure as Governor of the state . Justice David Okorowa gave this ruling on Wednesday, January 19, 2011 in response to the motions for the quashing of the case which was opposed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Adamu and his co-accused persons were arraigned on a 170 count charge, all bordering on misappropriation and embezzlement of over N15billion belonging to the people and government of Nassarawa state between 1999 and 2007. The other accused persons are Engr. Baba Gbewfi; Alhaji Halilu Bala Usman; Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu: chairman, Sneccu Group of Companies; Ovey Bala Angbaso; John Mamman; Ifeanyi Ezekweli: M. D, Ciez Pharmacy Limited; Mr. Chukwuma Okoronkwo; Nosa Idehen: M.D Jonabel Construction Company; Henry Nick Associates Limited, owned by Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu and others, Niccus Industries Limited, owned by Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu as well as Prince and Princess Limited.
All the counsel to the accused persons, in their consolidated applications, prayed the court to quash the charges preferred against their clients by the EFCC against the backdrop of the fact that the money in question belonged to Nassarawa state and not the Federal government. They further argued that the court lacked jurisdiction to entertain the suit and that the EFCC had no locus standi on the case since its proof of evidence did not disclose any prima facie case against them. They concluded their submissions by saying that Mr. Chile Okoroma, the EFCC's Head of Legal unit that signed the charges against the accused persons had no such prosecutorial power.
Chief Adeniyi Akintola, SAN, EFCC's lead counsel, addressing the court on the motions brought by all the accused persons, said that the issue of insufficient proof of evidence should not arise now because the court did not require that to commence trial.
'All the motions seeking for the quashing of this case are based on misconception regarding criminal trial in a Federal High Court as opposed to other courts of law, especially, as it relates to Section 33 of the Federal High Court Act with regard to prima facie and proof of evidence', he submitted. Akintola reminded the court that Okoroma signed the charges against the accused persons in exercise of a delegated power by the Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation.
In his ruling, Justice Okorowa dismissed all the prayers of the accused persons, stating that Sections 1, 41, 42 and 43 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, clearly empowered the National Assembly to make laws for the abolition of all corrupt practices, good governance all over the Federation and that the action of the EFCC did not amount to usurpation of the duties of the Nassarawa State House of Assembly. He charged all the accused persons to be prepared to stand for trial and prove their innocence because the 'EFCC could prosecute all the accused persons without violating the principles of federalism'. He adjourned the case till March 3 and 4 for the commencement of trial.
Adamu and other accused persons were first arraigned at the Federal High Court, Lafia, Nasarawa state, on March 10, 2010 before Justice Ibrahim Buba. Buba was later transferred to Asaba and replaced with Justice Marcel Awokulehin who declined to hear the case. The accused were later re-arraigned on a fresh 170 count charge on Thursday July 22, 2010 before Justice David Okorowa who has now ruled that trial should commence