Author Topic: Don?t quash charges against Grange, others, EFCC begs court  (Read 2835 times)

Offline sslabaran

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Sabo Sani Labaran
P.O. Box 250 Gombe Nigeria
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) yesterday begged an Abuja high court sitting in Maitama to decline an invitation by the immediate past Health Minister, Prof Adenike Grange and nine others to quash a criminal charge of conspiracy and stealing of N300million belonging to government preferred against them.
Prof Grange and ten others were alleged to have conspired with one another to fraudulently divert the total sum of N300million from the account of the Federal Ministry of Health under the cover of executing some phony contracts and allegedly shared the said sum. The nine others who teamed up with Prof Grange to collapse the criminal charge against them yesterday were the Director of Finance and Administration, H.P Oyedepo, Hanafi Mohammed, Donald Ekanem, Donatus Iyang, Olomo J.A, Obanla Emmnuel Olatubonsun, Henry Onyeagwalam and Edem Augustine.

All of them had separately through their counsel, urged the court to quash the charge preferred against them by the EFCC on the grounds that the commission woefully failed to establish a prima facie case against them. For instance, the former Minister of State, Aduku, had, through his counsel, Alhaji Abdulahi Ibrahim (SAN) filed a motion challenging the competence of the court to entertain the charges against him. He asked the court to quash all the counts preferred against him. In an affidavit he deposed to in support of the motion, Aduku stated that he had committed no offence known to law on which he should be tried. According to him, ?a combined reading of the witnesses? statements constituting the proof of evidence upon which leave was granted to prefer the charges in this case discloses no prima facie case or any other case whatsoever to warrant any further trial. ?That I know that all the charges against me were brought with the intent to ridicule me and draw my name into disrepute,? he had said. All other accused persons had maintained the same line of argument.

But the leading counsel to EFCC, Mr James Binang yesterday went into the background of the case to establish how each of them was involved in the alleged crime. According to Binang, ?sometimes on the 13th of February 2008, the EFCC received information of contract scam, criminal breach of trust  perpetrated by public servant and fraudulent withdrawals of monies totaling about N106million  from the overhead cost account no 1301005284 domiciled at Oceanic International Bank Plc
?The EFCC investigation revealed that the Federal Ministry of Health had a balance of N130 million in its overhead account domiciled in Oceanic International Bank Plc at the ending of the year 2007.

?The EFCC investigation further revealed that the management of the Federal Ministry of Health under the leadership of Prof Grange, Aduku and three others actually conspired to fraudulently withdraw money from the said overhead cost account by initiating a ?welfare committee? which had the 6th to 11th accused persons as members. ?The said ?welfare committee?s? task was to cook up contract documents from companies which will be fraudulently used as a conduit to siphon monies from the said account. ?The welfare committee reported directly to the director administration and supplies (the 4th accused person) who was mandated by the management to set it up. ?True to its assignment, the welfare committee identified 12 fictitious companies which it awarded contracts, forged local purchase orders and vouchers and finally drew up cheques in the name of the companies all valued at N103million. ?The cheques were initially written in the names of the various companies but were later replaced with the names of the Federal Ministry of Health Personel who are 6th-11th accused persons on record as instructed by the fifth accused person.

?Finally, all the forged cheques were endorsed by the new payees to the ministry?s cash, J B Faniyi who cashed the monies and handed them over to the 4th accused person for onward distribution to the other accused persons and staffers of the Federal Ministry of Health. ?It is important to note that while this fraud was being perpetrated, there was a standing presidential directive to all ministries, parastatals and government agencies to return any part of their unspent financial allocation to the Federation Account of the Federal Government of Nigeria,? Binang said yesterday. Added he: ?it remains incontrovertible that the 1st  to 5th accused persons \applicants served in various capacities as senior management staff of the federal ministry of health during the period preceding the allegations leading to the offences charged. ?Equally incontrovertible is the fact that the 6th to 11th accused persons \applicants were members of the orchestrated welfare committee which presided over the subject-matter of this charge.

?The complainant respondent have through its arguments of the issues set out for determination canvassed the position that there is prima facie evidence against all the accused persons\applicants  which require explanations on their part concerning their various roles and complicities  in the allegations of fraud at the federal ministry of health. ?On a careful perusal of the proof of evidence filed on April 8, 2008 and the additional proof of evidence filed on May 14, 2008, the complainant\respondent respectfully submit that a prima facie case is set out against the accused persons\applicants as to warrant a full blown trial of the indictment. ?We urge the court to consider the proof of evidence in this case filed on April 8, 2008 along with the additional proof of evidence filed on May 14, 2008 to find and hold that there is a prima facie case against the accused person\applicant for which they must stand trial. ?Accordingly, the complainant\respondent urges this court to dismiss various applications brought by the accused persons\complainants to quash the charge and direct the prosecution to prove its case against all the accused persons on record,? he said yesterday. Counsel to the opposing parties adopted their written briefs yesterday on the issue, but the court did not fix any date yet for ruling.

According to the trial judge, Justice Salishu Garba, he said he would like to take a similar application filed by Senator Iyabo Obasanjo who is the 12th accused person in the case and deliver a composite ruling on all the applications.
He has consequently fixed next week Friday for adoption of argument on Iyabo?s application.

By Ise-Oluwa Ige 


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