By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Supreme Court, yesterday, gave the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the nod to prosecute former governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema over his alleged complicity in the illegal diversion of public funds to the tune of N11billion.
The apex court, in a unanimous judgment that was delivered by a five-man panel of Justices, said it was satisfied that Shema has a case to answer.
In the leading judgment that was read by Justice Sidi Bage, the court dismissed as lacking in merit, the appeal marked SC/814c/2017, which the former governor filed to challenge the 22-count charge EFCC preferred against him.
The Supreme Court panel directed the erstwhile governor to return to the Katsina state high court and answer to charges pending against him. Shema is facing trial alongside three others, Sani Hamisu Makana, Lawal Ahmad Safana and Ibrahim Lawal Dankaba.
The defendants were accused of diverting local government allocations for their personal benefit.
The apex court upheld an earlier verdict of the Court of Appeal that refused to quash charges against the defendants.
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 maintained 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.
However, while dismissing their case on Friday, 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.
EFCC had earlier secured an interim forfeiture order against 18 assets belonging to the former governor.
In an affidavit in support of the motion ex-parte that was granted by Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court in Abuja, EFCC, averred that the seized assets were valued at over N86.2billion.
EFCC lawyer, Mr. O.I Uket told Justice Kolawole that it was imperative that the order was granted in order to preserve the assets pending the determination of the criminal charge against the defendant.