By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA — The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, on Wednesday, withdrew the N1.1billion fraud charge it entered against the former Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Abdullahi Dikko and two others.
The other defendants in the withdrawn charge are a former Assistant Comptroller-General of Customs in charge of Finance, Administration and Technical Services, Garba Makarfi and a lawyer, Umar Hussaini,
The anti-graft agency had in the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/21/2019, alleged that the former Customs boss and his co-defendants, induced the Managing Director of Cambial Limited, Yemi Obadeyi, to pay over N1.1bn into the account of Capital Law Office owned by the 3rd defendant, as a refundable “completion security deposit” for the purchase of 120 units of duplexes as residential accommodation for officers of the Nigeria Customs Service.
It alleged that Hussaini subsequently distributed the money into various other bank accounts, and was rewarded with the sum of $3 million for his effort.
Trial Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu had on February 17, issued a bench warrant for Dikko to be arrested and produced before the court for his arraignment.
The trial Judge equally directed the prosecution to ascertain the claim by counsel to the ex-Custom boss that his client was hospitalized in London.
She held that execution of the arrest warrant should be suspended should the ICPC confirm that Dikko was critically ill as claimed and in London hospital, notwithstanding contradiction in the address that was written on the medical report that was forwarded to the court.
The trial judge expressed her displeasure that since the charge was filed before the court, the defendant, repeatedly failed to make himself available for trial.
Meanwhile, at the resumed proceeding on Wednesday, ICPC’s lawyer, E. A. Sogunle, relied on section 108 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, and made an oral application to withdraw the charge.
Sogunle told the court that the Commission was unable to arrest Dikko despite the bench warrant that was issued against him.
He said: “My lord, at the last adjourned date, the 1st defendant (Dikko) was conspicuously absent and the court-mandated the prosecution to investigate his whereabouts.
“In our effort to do this, we wrote to the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS), who replied that they have no record of the 1st defendant either travelling in or outside of Nigeria between January 2020 and till date.
“In the circumstances, we have filed an affidavit of compliance with the court’s directive that we find out his whereabouts. This affidavit is to show the steps we have taken so far.
“We do not want to clog the court’s docket with this matter. We are convinced that the 1st defendant is a fugitive from law. We are taking every steps to apprehend him. When we do that, we will bring him before the court.
”In the circumstance, we wish to withdraw the charge, pursuant to Section 108 of ACJA, without prejudice to whenever he is apprehended”.
The application was not opposed by Dikko’s team of lawyers led by Mr. Solomon Akuma, SAN.
Consequently, Justice Ojukwu dismissed the charge.