Eniola Akinkuotu, Abuja
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Sokoto State Government are currently at loggerheads over the prosecution of the current Commissioner for Lands and Housing, Muhammad Abubakar, popularly known as Gwiwa; and Mr. Abubakar Ahmed, the Deputy Director of Sokoto State Ministry of Education.
The EFCC had in 2014 arraigned Abubakar (who was then a Permanent Secretary under former Governor Aliyu Wammako); Ahmed and three firms before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court, Sokoto.
The accused persons were arraigned on 43 counts bordering on conspiracy, forgery and money laundering to the tune of N100m.
However, to the surprise of the EFCC, at the resumption of trial on November 24, 2016, the Sokoto State Attorney General, Mr. Sulaiman Usman, announced appearance for the prosecution and informed the court of his intention to take over the prosecution of the case as the AG of Sokoto State.
Usman argued that Sokoto State was the victim of the alleged offences committed by the defendants and the state was interested in their prosecution.
The EFCC prosecutors, S.K. Atteh and E.E. Iheanacho, also announced appearance for the prosecution and informed the trial court that the EFCC is still prosecuting the case and has not received a directive from the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), to hand over the prosecution of the case.
Atteh, however, stated the EFCC had written to the AGF seeking to get his reaction but had yet to receive any response.
Atteh pointed out to the court that the clarification became necessary because the authority letter being relied on by the AG of Sokoto State was written by the then AGF, Chief Michael Agbamuche (SAN) in 1995 during the military era wherein he delegated powers to the state attorney general to prosecute cases on his behalf.
After listening to the counsel, Justice Aikwa noted that it was important to get the clarification of the current AGF so that the issue of who would continue with the prosecution of the case could be settled.
The court asked the AGF to communicate his position in writing to the court or send his representative to the court. The matter was further adjourned till December 19, 2016 for the clarification of the AGF.
The EFCC authorities, however, told our correspondent that there was a conspiracy to thwart the case.
Multiple sources told our correspondent that one of the lawyers representing one of the defendants was being paid by the state government.
A detective at the EFCC said, “The commissioner, who is the principal suspect, is a friend to the governor. He was a permanent secretary at the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs during the last administration and was standing trial for fraud when Tambuwal appointed him as a commissioner.
“We were informed that one of his lawyers is being paid by the state government. So, handing over the case to the state government will mean that the case is dead on arrival and this will be a shame to our anti-corruption war.” (Punchng.com)