Justice Yalim S. Bogoro of the Federal High Court, sitting in Minna, Niger State, has adjourned to February 20, 2018 a case of N2billion fraud involving a former governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu.
Aliyu, fondly called ‘the Chief Servant’ during his days as governor, is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alongside his Chief of Staff, Umar Nasko, on an eight-count charge of abuse of office and money laundering to the tune of N2billion.
The money, which was said to be part of ecological funds released by the Federal Government to the State in 2014, was allegedly diverted by the former governor for political purposes.
The offence is contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.
The matter, which was slated for today, for commencement of trial, was stalled by the defence counsels under the claim that they could not understand the statement made by PW1, Saidu Nma-Aba Idris, before the EFCC.
Addressing the court, Nasko’s counsel, Mamman Mike Osuman, SAN, said that he could not “decipher the statement of the PW1”, a position which Aliyu’s counsel, Olajide Ayodele, SAN, also aligned himself with.
Osuman said: “My lord, this gentleman’s purported statement before the EFCC is contained on a page within the ambit of proof of evidence.
“We are not able to decipher this statement. We can’t read it; we can’t understand it and a criminal matter is not supposed to be an ambush”.
He prayed the court to compel the prosecution to oblige them with a comprehensive copy.
Responding, counsel to the EFCC, Ben S. Ikani, vehemently opposed the submissions of the two learned silks.
He argued that, “the PW1 is the primary evidence as required by law, and his statement was served on the defence, six months ago”.
According to him, “what the law always look for is primary evidence. And who is the primary evidence here! It is the witness himself, ofcourse”.
He went further: “For goodness sake my Lord, six months after the proof of evidence has been served on the defendants, they did not say anything!
“They ought to have put across to the prosecution the question of whether the statement is readable or not before now. None of them complained, and they waited till this time when prosecution is ready to open its case and the court is ready to go on!”
Ikani said, he had a readable copy in his file and urged the court to disregard the submissions of the defence.
After listening to the both sides, Justice Bogoro, while adjourning the case, ordered the prosecution to make and serve on the defence, copies of all the statements of the PW1, so that trial can progress.