N2bn Fraud: Nigeria’s Ex-Accountant General, Otunla’s Absence Stalls Arraignment
London, Jan. 22, 2018 (AltAfrika)-The arraignment of a former Accountant-General of the Federation of Nigeria, Jonah Ogunniyi Otunla and eight others on charges of money laundering involving diversion of N2billion from the account of the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA, earlier slated for Monday was again stalled following the absence of the first defendant (Otunla) in court.
The arraignment, which was initially slated for December 7, 2017 was rescheduled to Monday as Otunla was not in court to take his plea.
He is to be arraigned alongside Otunba Ade Adelakun and 7 other companies before Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The companies are Gold Reef Industries Limited, Lambster Nigeria Limited, G.C Electronics Limited, Sinmilak Nigeria Limited, Wehsac Farms Limited, Stepherded Field Global Resources Limited and Stellavera Development Company Limited.
When the case was called, Otunla was again not in court, but was represented by his counsel, Ahmed Raji, SAN. Only the second defendant, Otunba Ade Adelakun was in the dock.
Raji told the court that his client was away “for medical treatment abroad” and so asked for more time.
Justice Dimgba gave a stand down for counsels to agree on a date to return to court and by agreement of the counsels, the matter was adjourned to February 27, 2018 for possible arraignment.
One of the counts reads:
“That you, Jonah Ogunniyi Otunla being the former Accountant General of the Federation and a Director and signatory to the ECOBANK account of WEHSAC FARM LTD, Otunba Ade Adelakun, being the Managing Director/Chief Executive officer and a signatory to the accounts of Goldreef industries Nigeria Limited Fidelity Bank, Lambster Nigeria Limited- Zenith Bank, G.C Electronics Ltd – GTB and Sinmilak Nigeria Limited- Fidelity Account, Col Bello Fadile (now at large) being the former Director , Special Duties in the office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and also a Director and signatory to the accounts of Helpline Organisation- Diamond Bank and Justice and Peace Consultants- GTB, sometime between June and August, 2013 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court directly converted the sum of N2,000,000,000 (Two Billion Naira) transferred to the accounts of Goldreef industries Limited-Fidelity Bank (N550 Million), Lambster Nigeria Limited- Zenith Bank (N650 Million) , G.C Electronics Limited – GTB (N450 Million) and Sinmilak Nigeria Limited- Fidelity Account (N350 Million) from the account of the office of the National Security Adviser with the Central Bank of Nigeria purporting to be for the supply of security equipments when you reasonably ought to have known that the said fund formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity of Col Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (Rtd) the then National Security Adviser (to wit: criminal breach of trust and corruption) and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 (2)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) and (4) of the same Act”.
Meanwhile, 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