By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, ABUJA
Justice Hussein Baba Yusuf of the Abuja High Court sitting at Maitama has granted bail to the former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki, rtd. Others equally granted bail by the high court were the erstwhile Director of Finance in the Office of the NSA, Mr. Shuaibu Salisu and the former Executive Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Commission, NNPC, Aminu Baba-Kusa .
The trio are answering to a 19-count criminal charge that was preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. In a ruling this afternoon, trial Justice Yusuf gave the accused persons bail in the sum of N200million each.
The court further ordered the accused persons to produce one surety each, who must be a serving or retired civil servant not below the rank of a Director. According to the court, the surety must show evidence of his or her ownership of a landed property in Abuja of which value must not be lower than N200million.
Besides, the accused persons were ordered to surrender their international passports to the Registrar of the High Court, even as they were forbade from travelling outside the jurisdiction of the court without permission. Dasuki and the other accused persons are facing trial alongside two firms- Acacia Holding Limited and Reliance Referal Hospital Limited.
EFCC alleged that the two firms served as conduit pipes through which over N32billion was allegedly looted from bank accounts that were operated by the office of the NSA . Even though Dasuki had through his lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji, SAN, urged the court to grant him bail on self recognition, his prayer was rejected by Justice Yusuf.
Dasuki was granted bail to the tune of N200million.
Others equally released on bail on the same condition yesterday were the erstwhile Director of Finance in the Office of the NSA, Mr. Shuaibu Salisu and the former Executive Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Commission, NNPC, Aminu Baba-Kusa.
Justice Yusuf further ordered the accused persons to produce one surety each, who he said must be a serving or retired civil servant not below the rank of a Director.
According to the court, the surety, must show evidence of his or her ownership of a landed property within the Federal Capital Territory worth N200million.
More over, the trial Judge, yesterday, ordered all the accused persons to surrender their international passports to the Registrar of the High Court.
He said they should not travel outside the jurisdiction of the court without permission.
The court has however fixed January 21 to commence full-blown trial of the accused persons who are answering to a 19-count criminal charge that was preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
They are facing trial alongside two firms- Acacia Holding Limited and Reliance Referal Hospital Limited, which the anti-graft agency said served as conduit pipes through which over N32billion was allegedly siphoned from from accounts the office of the NSA operated with both the Central Bank of Nigeria and other financial institutions.
The funds were allegedly distributed to delegates to the Presidential Primary Election the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP held in Abuja, a process that saw the emergence of ex-President Jonathan as the sole candidate for the party.
Even though Dasuki had through his lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji, SAN, urged the court to grant him bail on self recognition, his prayer was rejected by Justice Yusuf yesterday.
The former NSA is currently facing three different charges before three different courts and Judges.
While urging the court to grant his client bail on either self recognition or in the most liberal terms, Raji, SAN, argued that no were in the entire charge was it mentioned that the alleged looted funds were specifically earmarked for the purchase of arms for the military.
“My lord, this charge involves financial crimes for which the law also made provisions for plea bargaining. The law does not insist that everyone must go to prison.
“What matters most is the trial, not keeping people under detention over an offence that attracts a maximum of 14 years imprisonment.
“The accused person ought to be presumed innocent until his guilt is established. The fact that further investigation is being conducted or that the defendant will interfere with the witnesses are mere speculations not backed with any solid evidence.
“We urge my lord to reject this invitation for the court to embark on a voyage of speculation. The defendant is not facing a capital offence. Under the prevailing laws and section 36 of the constitution, a defendant in a criminal charge is presumed innocent no matter the gravity of the charge before the court”, Raji argued.
Dasuki and the other accused persons had predicated their bail applications on provisions of sections 158, 162, 165, 167 and 168 (b) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, as well as section 36(5) (6) of the 1999 constitution.
Specifically, the 2nd accused person who is the former Director of Finance in the office of the NSA, Salisu, begged the court to consider the fact that he “served the country meritoriously for 29 years”, and okay his release on bail.
Salisu, through his lawyer, Mr. A. U. Mustapha, said he was only a civil servant that merely followed orders.
He told the court that he willingly submitted himself to the EFCC and had since then been “cooperating with the prosecution”.
“My lord my client was on his way to Zaria to visit his sick mother when he was invited by phone to appear at the EFCC office. He immediately turned back to honour the invitation”, his lawyer added.
The accused persons said he has been in detention for the over 30 days.
“Bail is not only a constitutional right, it is a natural right too. My client will need his liberty to be able to go and consult his records with a view to properly defend the case against him”, Mustapha submitted.
Nevertheless, EFCC, vehemently opposed their bail applications, insisting that they should be allowed to remain in custody for the sake of its witnesses.
EFCC lawyer, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, urged he court to consider the potency of the proof of evidence before it, gravity of the charge, and the possible punishment the accused persons could incur upon conviction.
Stressing that the anti-graft agency has commenced the process of tracking all the assets owned by the accused persons, Jacobs, said there is a greater probability that they would jump bail.
Besides, Jacobs, argued that Dasuki, being a former Colonel in the Nigerian Army and the ex-NSA, has the wherewithal to influence ongoing investigations against him.
“My lord most of our witnesses worked under the 1st defendant. In the interest to protect them, this court should conveniently deny the accused persons bail. The defendants have enormous resources in their hands.
“There are investigations still going on, especially on the area of with ‘Asset tracing’. If granted bail, they will interfere with the process”, Jacobs insisted.
He urged the court to okay an accelerated hearing of the charge against the accused persons.
More so, the EFCC, in a 27-paragraphed counter-affidavit it filed before the court, said it had sometime in September, 2015, received an intelligence report bordering on abuse if office, criminal breach of trust, stealing, conversion and receiving of stolen properties.
It told the court that huge sums of money was released to Dasuki by former President Goodluck Jonathan, saying part of the funds was to be used for the procurement of arms and ammunition fir the use of the soldiers in the battle front.
The Commission said the funds “running into several billions of Naira”, were subsequently moved from the account of the office of the NSA with the CBN and some commercial banks to the account of private companies and individuals who have nothing to do with supply of security equipment or rendering of security services.
“That as a retired military officer and as a top security personnel with wide influence and affluence, he will use his position to intimidate, harass and influence the proposed prosecution witnesses if released on bail.
“That many of the proposed prosecution witnesses are public servants who had worked under the applicant herein and will be intimidated by the applicant of released on bail.
“That the offences being alleged against the defendant/applicant border on economic sabotage that strikes at the very foundation of Nigeria wellbeing and existence.
“That it is in the interest of justice to put the applicant in protective custody so as to shield him from a possible attach by the relatives of the innocent soldiers who lost their lives due to lack.of adequate equipment and facilities caused by the diversion of the funds meant for that purpose.
“That the applicant acquired a large volume of assets with the proceeds of crimes and my team is currently tracing the assets and if released on bail the applicant will interfere with the assets tracing activities.
“That the applicant transferred huge sum of monies to various companies whose identities we are still trying to trace.
“That our investigation also revealed that the applicant transferred large sums of monies outside Nigeria and he acquired several assets in Dubai and London with these funds”, read the affidavit deposed to by an investigative officer with the EFCC, Mr. Hassan Saidu.
It will be recalled that EFCC had among other things, alleged that the sum of N13.570 billion, being money for an “agreement”, between Dasuki and the ex-Director of Finance in the office of the NSA, Salisu, was looted from the national treasury.
The accused persons were said to have transferred a total sum of N1.45b to Acacia Holdings Limited’s account for special prayers; N2.1b given to DAAR Investment and Holding Company Limited for publicity; N170m for a four-bedroom duplex; N380m to support re-election of members of the House of Representatives; and N750m paid into Reliance Referral Hospital Limited’s account for special prayers.
Besides, EFCC said its investigations revealed that N670m was paid to certain publisher, N260m transferred to Tony Anenih and N345million traced to a former President of the Senate, Sen. Iyorchia Ayu.
The Commission said it has not been able to trace the ex-Special Assistant on Domestic Affairs to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Hon. Waripamowei Dudafa, who it said was “on the run”.