….orders him to open defence July 3
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Thursday, held that former Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, Mr. Andrew Yakubu, has a case to answer regarding about $9.8m that was discovered in his guest house.
Yakubu, who was GMD of the NNPC between 2012 and 2014, hitherto faced a six-count charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Officials of the anti-graft agency had on the strength of a tip-off by a whistleblower, raided the Defendants guest house situated at Sabon Tasha, Kaduna State, and recovered the alleged loot which was in foreign currencies.
EFCC said it discovered the sum of $9.7million and £74,000 that Yakubu hid in a fireproof safe inside the house.
A Federal High Court in Kano had on February 13, 2017, granted interim order forfeiting the recovered monies to the federal government.
However, the Defendant, who was earlier granted bail in the sum of N300million, insisted that the seized monies were part of monetary gifts he received on various occasions.
In a no-case-application he filed before the court, Yakubu, insisted that EFCC failed to establish a prima-facie criminal case against him.
The former NNPC boss, through his lawyer, Mr. Ahmed Raji, SAN, contended that the totality of evidence the prosecution tendered against him was not sufficient to warrant the court to compel him to open his defence to the six-count charge.
Consequently, he urged the court to discharge and acquit him of all the criminal allegations the EFCC levelled against him.
The prosecution had on October 17, 2018, closed its case against him after it produced seven witnesses that testified before the trial court.
In a counter-affidavit it filed on January 15, 2019, EFCC, through its lawyer, Mr. M.S. Abubakar, maintained that the proof of evidence it adduced before the court was enough to nail the Defendant to all the allegations against him.
It therefore prayed the court to compel him to open his defence to the charge.
Ruling on the matter on Thursday, trial Justice Ahmed Mohammed, agreed with the prosecution that the Defendant have explanations to give before the court regarding the charge against him with respect to four counts in the charge.
The court held that EFCC failed to prove the essential element of crime with regards to count five and six of the charge that dealt with how the funds were laundered.
“I accordingly discharge the defendant on counts five and six.
“Even though I am tempted to discharge the defendant on counts one to four, I am however constrained to ask the Defendant to explain how he came about the monies recovered from his house.
“Fortified with my position, the Defendant is hereby ordered to enter his defence in respect of counts one to four”, Justice Mohammed held.
The court thereafter fixed July 3 for the the ex-NNPC GMD to open his defence to the sustained counts in the charge.
Specifically, EFCC 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.
Yakubu had on March 16, 2017, pleaded not guilty to the charge.