By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA—Following the decision of the Supreme Court that he has a case to answer, former governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema, yesterday, expressed his readiness to defend corruption charges the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him.
The former governor, via a statement by his media aide, Mr. Olawale Oluwabusola, said he received the apex court’s verdict in good faith, saying he is prepared to prove his innocence “on universal principles of rule of law and fair hearing”.
Shema, who was accused of complicity in the illegal diversion of public funds to the tune of N11 billion, said he only went to the Supreme Court to challenge refusal by the anti-graft agency to handover some documents he needed to prepare his defence to the 22-count charge against him.
Insisting that he was never opposed to fair trial, the ex-governor accused EFCC of engaging in “trial by ambush.”
It wil be recalled that a five-man panel of Justices of the apex court had in a judgment last Friday, said it was satisfied that Shema has a case to answer.
Meanwhile, the statement by Shema’s media aide, read: “Ibrahim Shehu Shema has never been opposed to fair trial. His grouse has been against what was playing out in the allegations and trial by ambush.
“Now that the highest court in the land has spoken, he expects the EFCC and the Katsina State government to comply with and provide necessary documents to prepare his defence as provided by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
“The former governor is always ready to defend himself and to prove his innocence on universal principles of rule of law and fair hearing, against the politically motivated smear campaign of calumny being ochestrated by the Katsina state government, using agencies of state and federal government as tools to cow the opposition”.
Shema and his co-defendants had gone before the apex court to challenge their trial, contending that EFCC lacked the powers to try them under a law they said was enacted by the Katsina State government.
The appellants mainained that the appellate court erred in law when it declined to set-aside a ruling by the trial high court that okayed their criminal prosecution.
The former governor equally contended that he was entitled to be furnished with the proof of evidence against him, as well as other documents that were adduced by the EFCC.
However, while refusing to quash the charge, the Supreme Court, held that EFCC was empowered by its establishment Act to investigate and prosecute any person accused of corruption.
It said the anti-graft agency had the powers under its establishment Act to enforce any other law relating to economic crimes.
Justice Bage agreed with the lower court that the 22-count charge filed against the defendants were competent.
“This interlocutory appeal lacked merit and it is hereby dismissed,” the apex court held.