By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
ABUJA — The absence of former governor of Gombe State, Danjuma Goje, from court, yesterday, stalled hearing in the 18-count charge of conspiracy and money laundering instituted against him and four others.
Meanwhile, the EFCC has arrested two persons at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport Abuja with $238,858.
Goje, Alhaji Aliyu El-Nafarty, former Chairman Gombe State Universal Basic Education Board, Alhaji Sambo Mohammed Tumu and S.M. Dakoro a businessman, were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC for allegedly looting the treasury.
At the last adjourned date, the trial judge, Justice Babatunde Quadri of the Federal High Court Gombe had fixed November 8 and 9, 2012 for accelerated hearing.
When the matter was mentioned, the prosecution was shocked that Goje, a Senator, was not in court.
Goje’s defence counsel, Chris Uche SAN, produced a medical report purportedly issued by the National Assembly Clinic Abuja, and signed by Dr. Yero S.I. as evidence that his client was not fit to be present in court. The report claimed that Goje was under observation for “acute exacerbation of hypertension due to an underlying stress.”
But the prosecution counsel, Wahab Shittu, drew the court’s attention to fact that the prosecution witnesses were in court and that the matter was specifically adjourned to November 8 to accommodate Danjuma Goje’s travel for the Hajj.
Shittu wondered how a person that travelled from Saudi Arabia after the Hajj and attended a plenary session of the Senate would find it difficult to travel to Gombe for a court appearance.
He therefore demanded that the court issues a bench warrant for the arrest of Goje or adjourn for his appearance in court today.
But Uche, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, urged the court to adjourn proceedings as a criminal trial requires the presence of an accused person.
Alternatively, he said the prosecution should strike out Goje’s name from the charge and proceed with the trial of the other accused persons.
EFCC nabs 2 at Abuja Airport with $238,858.
One of the suspects, Abdulrasheed Ibrahim, was nabbed on Wednesday as he prepared to board a Dubai-bound Ethiopian Airline.
A total of $188,858 was found on him after he had initially declared that he only had $45,000) on him.
Further search on the suspect revealed that he was carrying forty British Pounds and 5753 grams of solid gold worth N34, 518,000).
The suspect is still being interrogated by the EFCC.
The second suspect, Hyginus Ezedimbu was apprehended at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport on November 3 as he prepared to board an Ethiopian Airline on his way to China.
He was caught with $50,000 but he declared $49,971.
Apart from under declaring the money in his possession, Ezedimbu could also not explain the ownership of the money, nor was he able to produce the receipt with which he purportedly purchased the forex from a Bureau De Change. Musa Adamu operator of Majia Bureau de Change, Abuja , who purportedly sold the currency to Ezedimbu has been questioned but release on administrative bail, pending the conclusion of investigation.
The arrest of the duo comes on the heels of similar arrests at two of the nation’s other major gateway, the Murtala Mohammed International Airport , Lagos and the Mallam Aminu Kano Airport , Kano .
Abubakar Tijani Sheriff, who has since been convicted by a Federal High Court in Lagos , was arrested on September 27, 2012 at the Murtala Mohammed International Airport en route Dubai , United Arab Emirates for attempting to smuggle $7million out of the country.
When he was arrested, he declared that he had only $4.5million on him but thorough search showed that he was actually carrying $7,049,444 (Seven million, Forty Nine Thousand, Four Hundred and Forty Four United States Dollars).
Two days after Sheriff’s arrest, the anti-graft agency similarly apprehended one Nkem Sebastian for attempting to smuggle $286,000 out of the country. He was arrested as he prepared to board a plane for Dubai , the United Emirates en route China . When the money was discovered, Sebastian disclosed that he had only $200,000 on him. But a search revealed that he was actually carrying $286,000.
On Sunday, September 30, 2012 operatives of the Commission arrested one Alhaji Tasiu Ilu Kura, a businessman with $700,000 (about N112m) at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport , Kano . The suspect who hails from Kura Local Government in Kano State , was arrested en route Dubai , United Arab Emirates .
Under declaring cash at entry and exit points in the country are criminal offence and the person making the declaration risk losing 25 percent of the money not declared or a two year jail term or both.