By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Tuesday, re-arraigned the former governor of Kaduna State, Mukhtar Yero, over his alleged complicity in criminal diversion of public funds to the tune of N700million.
Yero was docked before the Kaduna Division of the Federal High Court, alongside a former Minister of State for Energy, Nuhu Somo Waya, former Kaduna State PDP Chairman, Abubakar Haruna Gaya and the former Secretary to the State Government, Hamza Ishaq.
Meanwhile, all the Defendants pleaded not guilty to an 8-count amended charge the EFCC preferred against them.
The charges border on conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and criminal diversion of funds.
EFCC, via a statement that was signed by the Acting Head of its Media & Publicity, Mr. Tony Orilade, disclosed that the Defendants were allowed on bail by Justice Z.B Abubakar.
EFCC said the Defendants had after their plea, urged the court through their lawyer, Mr. Yunus Ustaz Usman, SAN, to grant them bail on previous conditions the court handed to them when they were initially arraigned.
Their bail plea followed an application by the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Joshua Saidi, for the court to fix a date for commencement of trial in the matter.
“The court ruled that since all the Defendants have already been granted bail without any hitch, she would rely on the existing conditions. She therefore ruled that the former bail conditions remain valid and should stand”, the statement added.
The prosecution began after investigations revealed that the Defendants allegedly benefited in the $115million that was said to have been diverted by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison Madueke.
It was alleged that the alleged diverted fund was shared to politicians and election officials in the 36 States of the federation to influence the result of the 2015 presidential election.
EFCC said its investigations further revealed that Kaduna State benefitted over N700million in two instalments.
It said the money was received by the trio of Waya, Gaya and Ishaq on behalf of the State for onward delivery to INEC staff spread across the 23 Local Government Areas of the State.
Count one of the charge against the Defendants read: “That you, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero (whilst being the Executive Governor of Kaduna State), Nuhu Somo Waya (whilst being a former Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria), Ishaq Hamza (whilst being the Secretary to the Kaduna State Government), and Abubakar Gaya Haruna (whilst being the Chairman PDP Kaduna State Chapter), sometime in 2015 in Kaduna within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court (Federal High Court) did conspire amongst yourselves to commit a crime to wit: indirectly taking possession of the of N700, 000, 000 (Seven Hundred Million Naira) which you ought to have known forms part of unlawful activity to wit: bribery and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) in 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the Same Act”.
In a related development, the Commission also re- arraigned one Abdulrasheed Baba Ahmed before Justice Z.B Abubakar on a 2-count charge of money laundering and retention of proceeds of alleged criminal activity to the tune of N190, 444, 000.
The Defendant, who was Director, Finance and Administration, Ministry of Justice, Kaduna State, was alleged to have in March 2015, received the said sum, being part of the funds released by Diezani Allison-Madueke, a former Petroleum Resources minister to influence the outcome of the 2015 election.
He allegedly received the money from the Ali Akilu Road branch of a new generation bank.
The money was purportedly meant to induce staff of INEC and Corps members on election duties.
EFCC said in the course of investigation, the Defendant, could not provide any evidence regarding how the money was disbursed.
One of the count in the charge against him read; “That you Raheed Baba Ahmed, the former Director of Finance, Ministry of Justice, Kaduna Division of this Honourable Court did directly take possession of the aggregate sum of N 190,444,000.00 (One Hundred and Ninety Million, Four Hundred and Forty Four Thousand Naira) which sum you reasonably ought to have known, forms part of proceeds of unlawful activity to wit: bribery, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) of the money laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2012 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act”.
The Defendant however pleaded not guilty to the charges.
EFCC said the re-arraignment of all the accused persons was due to the transfer of the former trial Judge, Justice S.M Shuaibu, to another jurisdiction.