By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court has voided an investigative committee report that indicted two former governors of Bauchi State, Isa Yuguda and Mohammed Abubakar, of alleged complicity in the illegal diversion of about N321.5 billion belonging to the state.
The court, in a judgement that was delivered by Justice Inyang Ekwo, held that the Assets and Fund Recovery Committee the incumbent governor of the state, Bala Mohammed, set up to probe his two predecessors, was unlawful.
Both Yuguda and Abubakar, who served as governors between 2007 and 2019, had approached the court to challenge the legal validity of the probe Committee, which they contended was constituted under a repealed law.
The plaintiff alleged that they were denied fair hearing by the committee.
While accusing the Bauchi state government of embarking on a witch-hunt exercise aimed to tarnish their reputation, the plaintiffs prayed the court to not only declare the committee as illegal, but to also invalidate its report that indicted them.
Aside from the Bauchi state government, other defendants in the matter were the State Security Service (SSS), the Nigeria Police Force (NPF), the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Meanwhile, Bauchi state government, through its Attorney-General, shunned the suit.
Consequently, in his judgement, Justice Ekwo, who noted that Bauchi State Attorney-General failed to honour a subpoena the court issued to compel his attendance to the proceedings, further observed that the state did not also adduce any legal instrument it relied upon to set up the probe panel.
The court said there was nothing before it to establish that the panel was validly set up.
“Without evidence of the executive instrument or order of the 5th defendant (Bauchi State Government) which established the said committee, it means that the 5th defendant has not effectively controverted the assertion of the plaintiffs.
“Furthermore, since the executive instrument is in the possession of the 5th defendant and it failed or refused to produce it in either their counter-affidavit or further counter-affidavit, it in my opinion means that it is being withheld by the 5th defendant.
“In our legal system, parties are to present their case comprehensively by stating the facts and evidence wholly respective of whether such fact or evidence is against his interest,” Justice Ekwo held.
The court proceeded to restrain the Bauchi State government from acting on the committee’s findings or relying on same to initiate criminal action against the two former governors.
It declared that the Bauchi State government and all the security agencies mentioned in the suit, were bereft of the constitutional power or authority to initiate or cause to be instituted “any investigation against the plaintiffs or their past administrations as governors of Bauchi State or prosecute/arraign them,” based on the committee’s report, when they were neither heard nor allowed to be heard by the committee.
The court equally declared the entire proceedings as well as the purported report of the committee as unconstitutional, null and void on the premise that the plaintiffs were denied their right to a fair hearing.
More so, Justice Ekwo, issued an order of perpetual injunction, restraining the Bauchi State government and other defendants in the case from initiating or causing to be initiated, an investigation or inquiry against the plaintiffs or their past administrations as governors of Bauchi Slate or prosecuting/arraigning them based on report of the probe committee.