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Federal Government To Appeal Saraki’s Acquittal |The Republican News

Okoi-Obono-Obla

Special Adviser to the President on Prosecution, Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr Okoi Obono-Obla

ADE ADESOMOJU

Special Assistant to the President on Prosecutions, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, said on Saturday that the Federal Government had finalised its decision to appeal last Wednesday’s ruling of the Code of Conduct Tribunal discharging and acquitting the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, of charges of false asset declaration.

Obono-Obla, who vowed that no one would be allowed to get away with any act of corruption, said in a telephone interview with our correspondent that the government would file a notice of appeal against Saraki’s acquittal by Wednesday.

The presidential aide, who works in the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, argued that the two-man panel of the CCT led by Danladi Umar, misapplied the law by adopting the wrong standard of proof in exonerating Saraki.

He said, “Definitely we are going to appeal against the ruling in Saraki’s case. One of our grounds of appeal is that the tribunal misapplied the law. For instance, the standard of proof that the tribunal used is not applicable to charges of false declaration of asset.

“It (charge of false asset declaration) is a strict liability offence, so you cannot apply the standard of proof that is applied in the regular criminal proceedings.

“Surely, we will file the appeal next (this) week Wednesday.”

Obono-Obla had earlier in an interview with The PUNCH, described the CCT ruling discharging Saraki as a travesty of justice, pedestrian and outrageous.

He said on Saturday that the government was resolute in its fight against corruption and would appeal against all the recent “nonsensical” rulings delivered in some high-profile corruption cases.

Obono-Obla said, “We are resolute. We are going to fight this war to the end. We must clean up Nigeria, otherwise, the nation is doomed. We have gone back to the drawing board to change our tactics and strategies.

“Anybody who thinks he can get away with an act of corruption is dreaming. We are going to file an appeal against all the nonsensical rulings that we have got from our court in recent times.”

The Code of Conduct Tribunal in Abuja on Wednesday discharged and acquitted Saraki of all the 18 charges of false asset declaration and other related offences preferred against him.

The two-man panel of the CCT led by its Chairman, Umar, unanimously upheld the no-case submission which Saraki filed after the prosecution closed its case with the fourth and the last prosecution witness testifying on May 4, 2017.

There were 48 documentary exhibits said to have been tendered in the course of the trial.

Umar, in his lead ruling, exonerated Saraki of all the charges on, among other grounds, that failure of the prosecution to obtain Saraki’s statement and make it part of the proof of evidence was fatal to the case.

He described as “absurd” that neither Saraki’s statement nor the report of investigation said to have been carried out was produced before the tribunal

He agreed with the defence team led by Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), that the prosecution’s evidence had been manifestly discredited during cross-examination by the defence.

He added that the evidence adduced by the prosecution led by Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) was “so unreliable that no reasonable tribunal could convict” based on it.

The tribunal chairman specifically noted that the third prosecution witness, Mr. Samuel Madojemu, who is Head, Intelligence Unit of the CCB, only gave hearsay evidence on the information the witness purportedly received from the EFCC.

Umar also noted that the evidence of the first prosecution witness, Mr. Michael Wetkas, an operative of the EFCC, was unreliable.

Concerning the evidence of second prosecution witness, Mr. Amazi Nwachuckwu, Head of Funds Transfer Unit of the Guaranty Trust Bank, Umar noted that witness had testified that documents relating to alleged foreign transfers by Saraki had been consumed in a fire incident so there was nothing to prove the charges that were based on the documents.

The tribunal chairman also noted none of the four witnesses, including Mr. Bayo Dauda, an official of Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Ilorin branch in Kwara State, who testified as the fourth witness, gave evidence that could prove any of the ingredients of the alleged offences.

The charges instituted against Saraki before the CCT related to the alleged breaches of the code of conduct for public officers, acts which were said to be punishable under the Constitution and the CCB/CCT Act.

He allegedly committed the breaches by making false declaration of his assets while being governor of Kwara State between 2003 and 2007 for his first term and between 2007 and 2011 for his second term as governor and from 2011 to 2015 as a senator.

Among the breaches were that he obtained an N375m loan from Guaranty Trust Bank Plc in 2010, converted it to £1,515,194.53 and transferred to the United Kingdom for the full and final mortgage payment for a London property.

The prosecution accused him of abuse of office by paying back the loan with funds belonging to Kwara State Government.

Additional charges against him included the allegation that he continued to receive salary and emoluments as Governor of Kwara State after the expiration of his tenure and at the same time, from the Federal Government as a senator between June 2011 and October 2013.

He was also said to have failed to declare to the Code of Conduct Bureau on assumption of office as governor of Kwara State in 2003, his leasehold interest in the property at 42, Remi Fani-Kayode Street, Ikeja, Lagos.

The charges also included an allegation that Saraki failed to make a written declaration of his “properties and assets”, that is, N77m made into his account with Guaranty Trust Bank, GRA, Ilorin branch on September 5, 2007.

The prosecution alleged that the sum of N77m was not fairly attributable to his “income, gifts or loan approved by the Code of Conduct for Public Officers”.

The prosecution also alleged that while being a public officer, he operated bank accounts outside Nigeria, and failed to declare the foreign accounts to the CCB while being governor and a senator during the period.

Properties that he allegedly made false declaration about included 17, 17A and 17B Mcdonald, Ikoyi, Lagos; Plot 2A, Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos; 37A, Glover Road, Ikoyi, Lagos which he allegedly bought through Carlisle Properties; No. 1 and 3 Targus Street, Maitama, Abuja, otherwise known as 2482, Cadastral Zone A06, Abuja.   (Punchng.com)

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Buhari’s Anti-corruption Panel Lambasts Presidency, Judiciary, Says AGF, Others Unserious About Graft War

 ItseSagay
Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN)

..says AGF, others not serious about graft war

•Lawyers sponsor judges’ children’s weddings –Sagay

ENIOLA AKINKUOTU

Two prominent members of the Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption in Abuja on Saturday picked holes in government’s handling of the anti-corruption war.

Speaking in Abuja at a programme organised by the National Association of Seadogs (the Pyrates Confraternity), the Chairman of the panel, Professor Itse Sagay (SAN), and member, Professor Femi Odekunle, attributed recent setbacks suffered by the administration in the prosecution of corruption cases to the fraudulent activities of compromised elements in the judiciary and legislature, and a lack of diligence on the part of some senior government officials.

The Chairman of the committee, Prof. Itse Sagay, said the President and his team must come up with new ideas to fight corruption.

He said the judiciary was concentrating more on technicalities rather than the spirit of the law and justice.

Sagay said, “The Federal Government, particularly the President and Vice-President, who were elected into office principally to eliminate corruption, must go back to their drawing board, search and scan the constitution and other laws to draw the requisite irresistible power to deal firmly with this terrible scourge of our times – otherwise we are all dead.”

The senior advocate said the National Judicial Council was not equipped to look into corruption cases against judges. He said the primary duty of the NJC was to address judicial misdemeanour.

The PACAC chairman said before 1999, Nigeria had many incorruptible judges like Justice Kayode Eso, Justice Chukwudifu Oputa, Justice Mohammed Bello, Justice Chike Idigbe, Justice Adetunji Adefarasin, Justice Mason Begho and others

Sagay, however, said corruption pervaded the judicial system after the return to democracy in 1999 when judges started hearing election petition cases.

He noted that many senior advocates had corrupted and compromised judges to the extent that some of the advocates now pay the school fees of children of judges.

Sagay added, “Today, some judges actually solicit for money. They don’t even wait to be offered money. One of the judges that have been asked by the NJC to go back to work is a constant solicitor of money. He writes to counsel, ‘my mother died yesterday, I need money to bury her.’

“Two months later, ‘my daughter is getting married next month, I need money to organise a wedding: Another month, the same judge will write, ‘my uncle has just been made a chief and I need to make a contribution, send money.’

“This is written to lawyers and the lawyers gladly contribute. In fact, there is a long list of lawyers now who have to go to the EFCC at least once a month to explain why they had to send so much money to the account of one judge or the other who demanded money.

“Some lawyers do it out of a sense of obligation while some lawyers do it for consideration of future favours. It just shows you how (low) our judges have sunk.”

Sagay said his committee had drafted a bill for the ‘Forfeiture of Assets and Properties, procured by unlawful activity (proceeds of crimes)’ which will empower courts to order forfeiture of properties by a person without the person being convicted.

The senior advocate said he had advised anti-graft agencies to use non-conviction based assets recovery system to fight graft in some peculiar cases.

He said in such a situation, anybody who was found in possession of huge sums of money, whose source he or she could not explain, would be made to explain themselves in court.

Sagay said this approach was used by the EFCC in the case against Patience, the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, whose $15m has been forfeited to the Federal Government and is now battling to save the $5m found in her bank account.

The PACAC chairman added, “If you are seen to be living beyond your means of livelihood, the anti-graft agencies could apply for temporary forfeiture of funds and properties and you would then be made to appear in court to explain yourself.

“That bill is already before the National Assembly but we are not even waiting for it to be passed. A part of the EFCC Act empowers the agency to do this and it is already being done in the case of Patience Jonathan’s $15m.

“You will recall recently that when $5m which she owns was frozen in her account but was later unfrozen due to technical issues, the EFCC went back to court to apply through this non-conviction based forfeiture and got it frozen again. Now she has to come to court to explain how she got it.”

Also speaking, Odekunle, in particular, questioned the commitment of the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), to the anti-graft war and also raised a doubt about the integrity of the Chairman of the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Mr. Danladi Umar, who discharged and acquitted Senate President Bukola Saraki of all 18 charges levelled against him, on Wednesday.

The professor of criminology also questioned the resolve of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Walter Onnoghen, to help the Federal Government in the fight against corruption.

The event titled, ‘Feast of Barracuda’, had ‘Critical Review of the Anti-Corruption War in Nigeria: Strategies, Challenges and Prospects’, as its theme.

While exploring the theme, Odekunle, raised eight salient questions which he said members of the public must answer in order to put the recent failures of the anti-graft war in proper perspective.

He asked, “Does the Presidency realise that routine crime prevention and methodology, instruments and processes are not adequate in fighting corruption in this country? That is, does the Presidency realise that fighting corruption must be a ‘rofo rofo’ fight? That it is not a question of due process, long process, fair hearing and all those that will give you technical justice instead of real justice?

“It is said that he who comes to equity must come with clean hands. In this regard, I ask, what were the details and the resolution of the EFCC matter on Danladi Umar’s bribery case? I don’t know, I’m just asking. Does the DSS possess any information about Danladi Umar on the use or abuse of hard drugs?

“Is there any record that Danladi Umar had been driving and crashing his car under the influence? These are questions that I don’t know the answers to but I want you to investigate.

“Is the Attorney-General of the Federation, who is to lead the anti-corruption fight, going by the way things have been going in the past two years, as committed as others who could have done the job better?

“I have no answers but I believe if they are answered, it will give us an insight into the cause of our current dilemma in the fight against corruption.”

Odekunle urged the Federal Government to use unconventional methods in the fight against corruption, saying it would never win if it continued to use what he described as conventional methods.

He said since the corrupt elite controlled the judiciary and the legislature, this group of people would continue to protect its own.

Odekunle added, “So, all this arrangee between the judiciary, the legislators, and people are saying, ‘We don’t want the APC to be destroyed, Saraki is our own, let us settle our own, party supremacy is better’, we must moderate that.”  (Punchng.com)

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BREAKING: FG Pays N375.8m To 2O Whistleblowers |The Republican News

President-Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

The Federal Government has paid N375.8m to 20 whistleblowers, who provided information that led to the recovery of N11.6bn.

The Director of Information, Mr Salisu Dambatta in a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, said that the payment was only for recovered assets that had been declared free of legal disputes or litigation by the Attorney-General of the Federation.

He said that in addition, taxes have been removed before final payments to beneficiaries.

“This payment, which is the first under the Whistleblower Policy, underscores the commitment of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration in meeting obligations to information providers under the Whistleblower Policy.

“The policy is an essential tool in the fight against corruption.

“The Ministry, therefore, encourages all Nigerians with information on misconduct, violation or improper activity which can impact negatively on Nigeria to report it to the appropriate authority,” he said.

Dambatta said the Whistleblower Policy was recently amended to include the introduction of a formal legal agreement between information providers and the Federal Government.

He said the agreement had already been executed by the Minister of Justice.

He said the amendment was introduced to ensure the protection of the identity of information providers during the payment process.

However, Dambatta declined to reveal the specific recoveries for which the monies were being paid saying that “it may endanger the whistleblowers”.

The Whistleblower Unit is a multi-agency team, resident in Federal Ministry of Finance Headquarters.

It is staffed by secondees from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission and Department of State Services.

Also, the Nigeria Police Force and Presidential Initiative on Continuous Audit form part of the unit.

The Unit is the first line of response to whistleblower information, where the initial review is undertaken before cases are forwarded to the relevant investigative agencies.

So far, the unit has received 2, 150 communications and 337 tips through its dedicated channels from many patriotic Nigerians, which led to the recovery of substantial assets that were illegally acquired by various individuals.

The primary purpose of the Policy is to support the fight against financial crimes and corruption, promote accountability and enhance transparency in the management of public finances.

NAN

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False Anti-Corruption Supporters In Government Frustrating US, Says EFCC

EFCCboss
                                                              Ibrahim Magu

Eniola Akinkuotu and Chukwudi Akasike

The acting Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr Ibrahim Magu, says there are many people in authority claiming to be supporting the war against corruption but are doing the opposite.

He also slammed those calling on the EFCC not to put too much focus on punishment of politically-exposed persons.

Incidentally, Senate President Bukola Saraki had at the public presentation of Senator Dino Melaye’s book titled, ‘Antidotes to Corruption,’ asked anti-corruption agencies to concentrate on prevention of corruption rather than punishment of corrupt persons.

Magu, while addressing a crowd during the EFCC stakeholders’ walk against corruption in Abuja on Tuesday, said the anti-corruption war was being frustrated by those who should ordinarily protect the poor masses.

He said, “It is time to weep for those who believe they can perpetually hold down Nigeria as a cow and milk her to death. It is time to weep for supposed men and women of honour who pose as corruption fighters but when they think we are not looking, they plot and fund the collapse of the anti-corruption war.”

Magu added, “While most of us who feel the pains of corruption are asking for more vigour in the fight, the cabal profiting from corruption would want the campaign watered down. While many Nigerians are calling for stiffer punishment for the corrupt, the patrons of corruption now tell us that it does not pay to punish the corrupt.”

The EFCC boss urged Nigerians to join the corruption war by embracing the whistle-blower policy of the Federal Government.

The walk, which lasted three hours, started from the EFCC head office in Wuse 2 through the Unity Fountain, Maitama and the Federal Secretariat.

The walk also took place in all the EFCC zonal offices located across the six geo-political zones.

In Lagos, the President of Women Arise for Change Initiative, Joe Okei-Odumakin, called on Nigerians to continue to expose corruption, saying it is necessary to preserve the future of the country.

Okei-Odumakin, a leading female rights activist, also described corruption as “cancerous.’’

In his address, the Chairman of Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Mr Debo Adeniran, said the walk was an expression of sheer determination to wipe out corruption from Nigeria.

Adeniran, who said Nigeria stood a chance of reclaiming her lost image through the current anti-graft crusade, further urged Nigerians to support the efforts of Magu to rid Nigeria of corruption.

Also, the Leader of Coalition of Human Rights Defenders, Inibehe Effiong, said the current decadence in Nigeria could only be eradicated through a sustained war against corruption.

In a similar event in Rivers State,  Magu said he was not afraid of anybody in the ongoing fight against corruption.

Magu, who declared that he had no fear in his DNA, said he would not succumb to pressure no matter how highly placed those involved in corrupt practices might be.

The acting EFCC chairman, who spoke through the Zonal Head of the commission, South-South, Mr Ishaq Salihu, during a walk against corruption in Port Harcourt on Tuesday, maintained that everybody was equal before the law.  (Punchng.com)

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Judge Warns DSS Over Failure To Produce Dasuki In Court |The Republican News

From Godwin Tsa, Abuja

Irked by the consistent absence of former National Security Adviser (NSA), Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), in court for trial, a judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf, yesterday warned the Department of State Service (DSS) not to take the trial lightly.
Justice Baba-Yusuf, who was angry over the conduct of the DSS, adjourned the case to July 10, 11 and 12, 2017, at the instance of the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN).
He asked the prosecuting counsel to contact all agencies of government to ensure that Dasuki was produced in court on the next trial dates.
Dasuki is standing trial on charges of alleged diversion of funds meant for procurement of arms.
The judge said: “I only want to say that the proceedings of the court should not be taken lightly.
“Extraneous considerations must not be allowed to interfere with course of justice.”
Earlier, Jacobs said the DSS’ legal director attributed the failure of the agency to produce the ex-NSA in court on Tuesday to an “oversight.” He further explained that after he discovered that the ex-NSA had not been produced in court at the scheduled time on Tuesday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission contacted the DSS, which blamed it on the unwillingness of Dasuki to attend court because he was indisposed.
Jacobs said: “I contacted the Director of Legal of DSS to explain the absence of the first defendant in court yesterday (Tuesday). He told me it was an oversight and that the first defendant would be produced this morning (Wednesday).
“I made series of efforts when I discovered he was not yet in court this morning, but I was unable to contact the DSS. I immediately contacted my client, the EFCC, for them to approach the DSS. My client later told me that the first defendant said he was indisposed and would not come to court.
“On account of that, I will be asking for an adjournment.”
Counsel to Dasuki, Mr. Joseph Daudu (SAN), said he had no objection to the prosecutor’s application for an adjournment, even as he described the situation as “an inter-departmental issue.”
He further stated that the situation had further highlighted the state of powerlessness of the court that a defendant granted bail by the court was unable to enjoy the bail.
Daudu said: “From all that the prosecuting counsel has said, it is an inter-departmental issue. I think this highlights the powerlessness of the court; the court granted him bail, which he has not been allowed to enjoy.”
Another defence lawyer in the case, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), described the excuse of an oversight given by the agency as the reason for the failure to produce the ex-NSA in court earlier on Tuesday as “irritating”.
While not opposing the request for adjournment, Olujinmi asked the judge to direct the DSS to produce Dasuki in court on the next trial date.
Others standing trial alongside the ex- NSA are a former Director of Finance and Administration in the office of NSA, Shuaibu Salisu; former General Manager, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Aminu Baba-Kusa.
Two companies belonging to Baba-Kusa, Acacia Holdings Limited and Reliance Referral Hospital Limited, are also part of the defendants.
The case involving the alleged diversion of N32 billion was scheduled to come up on Tuesday, but while the other defendants in the case were in court, the DSS did not produce Dasuki.       (The Sun)

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Saraki, Dogara Fault Anti-corruption War, Call It Selective And Sensational

• Insist war selective, sensational

• Whistle-blower Protection Bill ready July

From Fred Itua, Abuja

Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, yesterday, took the Federal Government to the cleaners over its anti-corruption war.

While Saraki claimed the anti-graft war was sensational and selective, Dogara insisted the war was only “dealing with the symptoms of corruption.”

The two National Assembly leaders spoke in Abuja, at the public presentation of Senator Dino Melaye’s book, “Antidotes For Corruption: The Nigerian Story.”

Saraki particularly came hard on anti-corruption agencies, alleging that they were under pressure to justify their existence and show that they were working.

He said this led to media trials of suspects by anti-corruption agencies, noting that the agencies left the substance of anti-corruption war, but focused on the show.

He said: “Let us imagine a society today in Nigeria where all the proceeds of corruption are well utilized rather than the one minute or five-minute sensation that we see in the fight against corruption. It is my view that we must fight corruption with sincerity.

“We must aim to go to the root of the problems. We need to strengthen our institutions. We should not base the anti-corruption war on individuals.

“People who are corrupt are patient. They can wait for four or eight years or 12 years. That is why it cannot be based on individuals. We must ensure that we do our best.

“I am convinced that we must return to that very basic medical axiom that prevention is better than cure.

“Perhaps, the reason our fight against corruption has met with rather limited success is that we appeared to have favoured punishment over deterrence.

“We must review our approaches in favour of building systems that make it a lot more difficult to carry out corrupt acts or to find a safe haven for corruption proceeds within our borders.

“In doing this, we must continue to strengthen accountability, significantly limit discretion in public spending, and promote greater openness.

“We in the National Assembly last week took the first major step in this direction towards greater openness.

“For the first time in our political history, the budget of the National Assembly changed from a one-line item to a 34-page document that shows details of how we plan to utilize the public funds that we appropriate to ourselves.

“One area I believe we have made remarkable progress in the past two years of the President Buhari-led administration is that corruption has been forced back to the top of our national political agenda.

“Every single day, you read the newspapers, you listen to the radio, you go on the internet, you watch the television, the people are talking about it. The people are demanding more openness, more accountability and more convictions.

“Those of us in government are also responding, joining the conversation and accepting that the basis of our legitimacy as government is our manifest accountability to the people.

“At the moment, we are considering for passage into law the following bills: The Whistleblower Protection Bill, which I am confident will be passed not later than July 2017; The Proceeds of Crime Bill; The Special Anti-Corruption Court, which would be done through constitutional amendment and; The Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Bill.

“If we are able to build a quality public education system, especially at the basic and secondary level, which would not require parents to pay through their nose for their children’s education.

“If we are able to build an efficient public health system that provides insurance cover to ordinary citizens so that when they fall sick, they can access quality healthcare without running from pillar to post looking for money; if we are able to build a system that guarantees food and shelter to everyone; if we are able to do all these, we would have gone a long way in removing much of the driving force for corruption at this level.”

To drive home his point, Dogara said: “Corruption, for those who are farmers, is like a tree that grows vigorously. If you end up pruning the trees and not attacking the roots, there is no way you will deal with that thing.

“So, when those who celebrate the successes of the fight against corruption in terms of the high profile investigation, high profile prosecution and even detention, they are missing the point because that is dealing with the symptoms of corruption. That is punishing corruption. But how are we developing remedies that we can apply to ensure that the tree dies?

“Recently, we went for May Day and some of us were nearly held hostage. You can’t blame the workers. While they were agitating for their rights, agitating for minimum wage, some of us are talking about living wage. The workers control, perhaps, about 96 percent of the budget.

“In the National Assembly, we have about 92 percent, judiciary and the rest. So, if you don’t make the environment conducive for those who administer this money not to want to be corrupt, you will end up jailing people.”

He said unless and until strong institutions were built and strengthened, Nigeria might end up punishing corruption but not fighting corruption.

He said for the war against corruption to succeed, there must be institutional reforms that would help put in place measures, which would make it near impossible for people to engage in corrupt acts.

“As a country, we ran into a situation where corruption was becoming the norm, there was this moral cult that we had created that celebrated corruption.

“The motivation was always there for corruption, but now what is important is not just fighting the old corrupt system. Really, if we must make progress, our focus should be to replace the old order that was corrupt with a new order that makes corruption near impossible to take place.”

On Melaye, Dogara said he would not be surprised by the avalanche of criticisms likely to follow, because “Dino himself is a combination of so many things. He is highly opinionated, often pugnacious. Obviously, he will be a magnet for opinionated criticism as well, he will not escape that.”

In his remarks, Melaye said: “Corruption also exists in low places. Tomato sellers, panel beaters and fuel attendants, are all corrupt.

“What we practice in the country is not democracy, but government of the greedy, by the greedy and for the greedy.”            (The Sun)

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FG Wants Masked Witnesses Against Dasuki To Testify Behind Screen

Image result for sambo dasuki
                    Immediate past National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.)

Ade Adesomoju, Abuja

The Federal Government, on Thursday, urged the Federal High Court in Abuja to allow its prosecution witnesses to testify behind the screen in the trial of a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.).

Justice Ahmed Mohammed said he would, on June 15, rule on the application which was opposed by Dasuki’s lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN).

The lead prosecuting lawyer, Mr. Dipo Okpeseyi (SAN), while addressing the court on Thursday, stated that there was possible threat to the witnesses’ lives by virtue of Dasuki’s current and previous positions.

Dasuki’s lawyer, Raji, however, urged the court to consider the alleged threat as a mere “speculation” without any evidence supporting it.

But the prosecutor, in his further argument, insisted that the threat was real, alluding to an alleged inexplicable accident which he said had virtually incapacitated the principal prosecution witness in the case.

Okpeseyi added, “The principal witness in this case can no longer appear in court due to an accident he was involved in.

“The circumstances surrounding his accident are still unknown. He was just saved by God. He sustained multiple fractures from his head to his leg.

“So, life must be protected before it is lost.”

The prosecution had, on April 6, 2017, re-arraigned Dasuki on amended charges of money laundering, stealing of prohibited firearms and illegal possession of firearms.

The defendant pleaded not guilty to all the seven counts instituted against him.

At the hearing of the prosecution’s application for witness protection on Thursday, Okpeseyi argued that there was a need to shield the identities of the prosecution witnesses from the public.

He said this was because the witnesses were operatives of the Department of State Services “carrying out covert operations on behalf of the Federal Government in various parts of the country and even beyond.”

Okpeseyi also noted that Dasuki’s status as a former senior military officer, an ex-Aide-de-Camp to a sitting President, a former NSA and a crown prince (of Sokoto Caliphate), collectively conferred on the defendant large followers.

He stated, “What we seek is for them to give evidence behind a screen to be provided by the court.

“The defendant was once their boss and the defendant had been a senior military officer, a former Aide-de-Camp to a sitting President, a former NSA and a crown prince, who has large followers.

“It is for these reasons that, even without his (Dasuki’s) knowing, harm may come the way of the witnesses.”

He also distinguished between the application and the one earlier filed by the prosecution and dismissed by the former trial judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, from whom the entire case was transferred to the current trial judge.

Okpeseyi said Section 232(b) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act provides for “screening” or “masking” as the options for witness protection which the prosecution could seek for its witnesses.

He added that the screen, if allowed by the court, would not take away the right of the defence to cross-examine the witnesses or prevent the defence lawyers as well as the defendant from seeing the prosecution witnesses behind the screen.

But in response, Raji insisted that the alleged threat to the prosecution witnesses’ lives was speculative as no harm had been done to any of the prosecution witnesses who had been testifying without a screen in the two criminal cases pending against Dasuki in the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Maitama, Abuja.

He also argued that a similar application had been dismissed by the former trial judge, adding that if the court granted the application, it would amount to Justice Mohammed sitting as an appeal court over the previous ruling.

He argued that Section 232 of ACJA was applicable to the trial as some of the offences instituted against the defendant fell under economic and financial crimes as provided under section 232(4)(c) of the Act.

Justice Mohammed fixed June 15 for ruling.      (Punchng.com)

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