By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, remanded former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, who was accused of stashing over N3 billion in his house in Kaduna, in Kuje Prison.
Trial Justice A. R. Mohammed sent the defendant to prison after the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, docked him on a six-count money laundering charge.
Yakubu, who was GMD of the NNPC between 2012 and 2014, will remain in prison till March 21, a date the court fixed to rule on his bail application.
The defendant, who pleaded not guilty to the charge, had through his lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji, SAN, begged the court to rather remand him in EFCC custody pending the ruling, a request Justice Mohammed turned down.
Justice Mohammed said: “Mr. Raji, when somebody’s plea is taken, the prosecution no longer has control over such defendant who has become a property of the court.
“It will be a negation of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act to allow the prosecution to still retain the defendant in its custody. God willing, the ruling will be delivered on the next adjourned date.”
Raji had earlier prayed the court to grant his client bail either on self-recognition or on very liberal terms.
He argued that in line with sections 158 to 165 of the ACJA, 2015, except a capital offence is involved, an accused is ordinarily entitled to bail.
He told the court that whereas counts one and two of the charge attracts maximum of five years imprisonment upon conviction, while count three and four stipulated that 25 per cent of the alleged loot be forfeited to the Federal Government, he said the last two counts could only attract 10 years jail term.
On its part, the EFCC opposed Yakubu’s bail request, even as it urged the trial judge to exercise his discretion in the overall interest of justice.
“My lord you are entirely in control of the scale of justice and the nation is entitled to justice. If the court is mindful of granting their request for bail, we ask that the court give stringent conditions that will compel the defendant to attend his trial.
“We vehemently oppose his prayer to be released on self-recognizance,” EFCC lawyer, Mr. Ben Ikani submitted.
He noted that though Yakubu claimed he has health challenges, he, however, failed to adduce any medical report indicating that he has any chronic ailment.
“Yes, his health is important, we agree. The issue is that EFCC is a 21st century law enforcement agency. Since he has been in custody, we have constantly monitored his health. EFCC takes good care of people in its custody not to talk of a former GMD of the NNPC. We have adequate facility to take care of him.
“We concede that he submitted himself voluntarily. But the issue that is of concern to us is his prayer that his international passport be temporarily released to him. We oppose that application in its entirety”, the prosecution added.
It will be recalled that following a tip-off from a whistle-blower, the EFCC, raided Yakubu’s guest house situated at Sabon Tasha, Kaduna State, where it recovered the alleged loot which was in foreign currencies.
The anti-agency said it discovered the sum of $9.7million and £74,000 that Yakubu hid in a fireproof safe inside the house.
The defendant earlier asked the high court to order the commission to return the seized money to him, insisting it was part of monetary gifts he received on various occasions.
FG had in the charge marked FHC/Abj/ CR/ 43/ 2017, alleged that Yakubu failed to declare the money in the assets form he filed at the EFCC on August 18, 2015, and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 27(3) (a) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004 and punishable under section 27(3) (c) of the same Act.
In count three and four of the charge dated March 9, FG, alleged that Yakubu had between 2012 and 2014, without going through a financial institution, received cash payments of $9, 772, 800 and £74, 000, and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 1 of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2012 and punishable under section 16(2) of the Act.
In count five and six, FG alleged that Yakubu had with intent to avoid a lawful transaction under the law, transferred at various times in Kaduna, aggregate sums of $9,772, 800 and £74, 000, when he reasonably ought to know that the said funds formed part of the proceed of some form of unlawful activity and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 7(4) (b) (ii) of the Advance Fee Fraud Act, 2006.