By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – Erstwhile Governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, and his son, Sagir, who were accused of complicity in the illegal diversion of $2.1 billion meant for the procurement of arms, yesterday, applied for their trial to be separated from that of the former National Security Adviser, NSA, Col. Sambo Dasuki.
The duo, alongside their family company, Dalhatu Investment Ltd, are answering to a 22-count criminal charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against them and Dasuki, before an Abuja High Court sitting at Maitama.
Of the $2.1 billion arms fund, which the Federal Government said was domiciled in an account operated by the Office of the NSA (ONSA) under Dasuki, the defendants were alleged to have conspired and shared N19.4 billion amongst themselves.
Equally on trial over the alleged fraud are former Director of Finance and Administration in the Office of the NSA, Shuaibu Salisu, as well as a former Minister of State for Finance, Bashir Yuguda.
Meanwhile, Bafarawa, his son and their firm, who are 4th, 5th and 6th defendants in the matter, in the motion they filed before the court, said they were no longer comfortable with their joint trial with Dasuki.
They decried that continuous unnecessary delay of their trial along with Dasuki, has negatively affected their family business.
Therefore, the three defendants, through their lawyer, Dr. Kayode Olatoke, SAN, urged trial Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf to not only separate the charges, but to equally okay accelarated hearing of the case against them.
Bafarawa and his son contended that under section 36 of the 1999 constitution, as amended, they were entitled to be tried speedily and within a reasonable time.
Besides, the applicants, in a 15 paragraphed affidavit they attached in support of the motion, told the court that no reasonable progress have been made on the trial since it began in 2015.
They attributed the situation to frequent motions from different parties in the matter, who they said either challenged the court’s jurisdiction or moved for the charges to be quashed.
In the affidavit deposed to by one Bolatito Oguntoye, the applicants said they were ready to assist the court to speedily conclude the case, if their motion for separate trial is granted.
According to them, the role of each accused person in the transaction that led to the joint charge are distinct.
They equally argued that the proof of evidence touched on each of the defendants personally and could be effectively determined separately by the court.
Meantime, the EFCC, opposed the application, even as it urged the court to dismiss it for want of merit.
The anti-graft agency, through its counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, maintained that the motion was in contravention of the provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
In a counter motion, EFCC argued that Bafarawa, his son and their family company, were properly joined with Dasuki and the other defendants in view of joint roles they allegedly played in the diversion of public fund, as well as for conspiracy.
Jacobs, SAN, alleged that Dalhatu investment, owned by Bafarawa and his son, received stolen funds into its UBA bank account, stressing that once their charge with Dasuki is separated, it would be practically and legally impossible for the prosecution to prove the case of conspiracy against them.
More so, the EFCC lawyer discribed the motion as a deliberate ploy by the former governor and his son to further delay the trial.
Similarly, Dasuki, through his own lawyer, Mr. Adeola Adedipe, also opposed the motion, saying the nature and circumstance of the case required that he should be tried alongside the three applicants.
Dasuki said he was ready and willing to have the matter speedily determined, adding that FG deserved to be blamed for the delays, having refused to obey court orders that granted him bail, as well as a directive that he should be allowed unfettered access to his lawyers.
After he had listened to all the parties, Justice baba-Yusuf adjourned ruling on the motion till October 19.
Dasuki who has been in detention since November 3, 2015, is facing two separate charges before the high court.
EFCC alleged that the $2.1billion was meant for the purchase of arms to combat terrorism in the North-East.
The ex-NSA was on December 29, 2015, re-arrested by operatives of the Department of State Service immediately he was released from Kuje Prison upon perfecting all his bail conditions.
The ECOWAS court had in a judgment on October 4, 2016, ordered the Federal Government to immediately release him from detention, an order FG refused to comply with.