July 11, 2024

Alleged N33bn Fraud: Court remands ex-Power Minister, Mamman in prison

Alleged N33bn Fraud: Court remands ex-Power Minister, Mamman in prison

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, ABUJA

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Thursday, remanded a former Minister of Power, Mr. Saleh Mamman, in Kuje prison.

The erstwhile Minister was remanded after he pleaded not guilty to a 12-count money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him.

Trial Justice James Omotosho said he should remain in custody till Friday, when his bail application will be heard.

Mamman, who served in the administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari, is facing trial over his alleged complicity in a N33billion fraud.

He was arrested in 2021, about four months after he was removed from office by ex-President Buhari.

EFCC, among other things, alleged that he conspired with staff members of the ministry to divert about N22bn that was meant for the Zungeru and Mambilla Hydro Electric Power projects.

The anti-graft agency said its investigations revealed that the suspects used the funds to acquire choice assets, both within and outside the country.

The defendant had earlier before he was arraigned on Thursday, slumped within the court premises.

It took the help of both lawyers and a team of medical personnel from the court, to revive him.

Eventually, the defendant, who looked frail and ill, walked into the courtroom and entered inside the dock with part of his clothes drenched.

The trial judge, who was not aware of what transpired outside the courtroom, queried the defendant to ascertain if he was exposed to rain.

Responding from the dock, Mamman, explained that water was poured on him after he collapsed.

His lawyer, Mr. Femi Ate, SAN, confirmed the development after the prosecution counsel, Mr. Adeyinka Olumide-Fusika, SAN, told the court that his attention was also drawn to the situation.

Narrating what happened, Mamman’s lawyer, Ate, SAN, said: “My lord, upon being brought into the premises of the court, the defendant collapsed and had to be resuscitated and treated by the medical personnel of the Federal High Court.”

He said his client was however served with a copy of the charge against him after he was resuscitated, adding that he had already discussed with EFCC’s lawyer for the arraignment to be deferred.

On his part, the prosecution counsel told the court that what was served on the defendant was an amended charge.

He said the amendment was effected to correct an error in the name of the defendant.

Olumide-Fusika, SAN, urged the court to compel the defendant to enter his plea to the charge.

After he had listened to both sides, Justice Omotosho said he could only adjourn the matter till September in view of the heavy workload the court is faced with.

Following the position of the court, Ake, withdrew his oral application for an adjournment.

The defendant also confirmed to the court that he was fit and ready to take his plea, explaining that he collapsed as a result of a medication he took without food.

The court, after standing the matter down for about an hour, resumed sitting and took the defendant’s plea.