The Court of Appeal sitting in Makurdi and presided over by Justices Jafaru Mailaile, Gana Msheila and S.C. Oseji on March 26, 2013, told the former governor of Nasarawa state, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and others who are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for N15 billion fraud that substitution of court papers cannot be the same as amendment.
Others arraigned alongside the former governor were: Alhaji Halilu Bala Usman, Alhaji Usman Aboki, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, Prince and Princes Limited, Jonabel Engineering Nigeria Limited, JCC International, Mbani Construction Company Limited, Shinco Nigeria Limited, Henry N Nick Associates Limited, Water Search Nigeria, Sneccu Group of Companies, Nicas Industry Limited, Addais Nigeria Limited, Faslan Ventures Limited, Yoojin Nigeria, Kiagama Con Limited, Sharafa Bros Nigeria and Riok International.
The court said this is more so as they could not provide the court with a schedule of amendment. The Appeal court also ruled that all the accused persons must regularize their appeal such that, though they filed a joint application, each must have its own appeal number.
At today sitting, Counsel to Adamu, Rotimi Oguese, SAN applied to withdraw some applications earlier filed except that of January 31, 2013. The court granted his prayers by striking out the application but he could not move the remaining one as counsel to the EFCC, O. I. Uket had challenged that by filing a counter affidavit.
Similarly, the prayers for the stay of proceedings by the accused persons could not be entertained as the prosecution filed a counter affidavit asking the court for time to study and reply.
It would be recalled that on March 3, 2010, the EFCC arraigned former Governor Adamu (now a Senator) alongside 18 others on a 149-count charge of fraud to the tune of N15 billion, before Justice Ibrahim Buba. Justice Buba was later transferred to Asaba Division and replaced by Justice Marcel Awokulehin. Justice Awokulehin voluntarily withdrew from presiding over ex- governor Adamu's fraud case, citing personal reasons and "in conformity with his conscience".
Justice David Okorowa took over the case and the accused filed a motion asking for its quashing for lack of jurisdiction. The ex-governor and his co-accused specifically argued through their counsel that the money in question belonged to the people of Nasarawa state and therefore does not fall under the purview of federal government and by extension, the EFCC's eagle eye.
But Okorowa, in his landmark ruling, said the former governor had a case to answer and therefore urged the accused to be ready to face trial. This development made ex-governor Adamu and his co travellers to file an appeal and also served the lower court (Federal High Court, Lafia) with a stay of proceeding motion while the appeal last. On March 3, 2011, the EFCC filed a 15 paragraph counter- affidavit opposing the application for stay of proceedings, a development which necessitated the accused going on appeal
Count two reads: "That you, Alhaji Abdulahi Adamu whilst being the governor of Nasarawa state and Alhaji Halilu Bala Usman, whilst being the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs, Nasarawa state between May 1999 to May 2007 and 2002 to 2007 respectively within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did authorize, direct, effect or procure the withdrawal of the sum of N2, 456, 000,00.00 in 63 months from the State/Local Government Joint Accounts, belonging to 13 Local Government Councils of Nasarawa state contrary to Section 7(6) (A), 162 (5), (6), (7) and (8) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, the Local government laws of Nasarawa State and the Joint Account Law, intending therefore to cause injury to the public and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 104 of the Criminal Code Act".
Media & Publicity Unit
26th March, 2013