A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja presided over by Justice Okon Abang on Monday ruled that a former governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako, has a case to answer in the N29 billion fraud charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
This was disclosed in a statement issued by the EFCC’s Head of Media and Publicity, Wilson Uwujaren.
Nyako is being prosecuted by the EFCC alongside his son, Abdul-Aziz, two companies, Sebore Farms and Extension Ltd and Pagado Fortunes Ltd, as well as Zulkifik Abba, Abubakar Aliyu, Blue Opal Ltd, Tower Assets Management Ltd, and Crust Energy Ltd on a 37-count charge of criminal conspiracy, stealing, abuse of office, and money laundering.
The EFCC closed its case after it had called 21 witnesses, but rather than open their defence, the defendants opted for a no-case submission on the ground that the prosecution had failed to link them to the alleged offences.
But in his ruling, Justice Abang dismissed defendants’ ‘no-case’ submission, ordering them to enter their defence.
He had said: “I have calmly, carefully, and painstakingly scrutinised the evidence adduced by the 21 witnesses in chief and under cross-examination, including the oral and written arguments of all the defendants.
“I have again carefully and painstakingly considered the evidence of the 21 witnesses and the massive documentary evidence and the extrajudicial statements of the defendants.
“I have carefully considered the legal arguments of all the counsel for the defendants, their written and oral arguments, and the argument of the prosecution.
“It is my humble but firm view that the prosecution has established a prima facie case against the defendants, and they are required to enter their defence immediately.”
The trial has been adjourned till October 4, 5, 7, and 8 for the defendants to open their case.
The last witness to be called by the prosecution was a former Secretary to Adamawa State Government, Kobis Harithimnu, who testified via video link.
The witness had told the court that there were two departments in his office, which he oversaw, called the Security and Special Services Office and Political Services, adding that memos were usually generated by the permanent secretary and brought to him for endorsement before sending to the governor’s office for approval.
According to him, “it is the governor that approves the memos and collects the cheques from the accountant of the department or, sometimes, from the permanent secretary. Some of the cheques are sent to the governor by me.”
He added that he explained to the permanent secretary that the procedure was irregular.
The trial had begun on July 8, 2015 before Justice Evoh Chukwu, but started afresh on September 12, 2016 before Justice Abang, following the demise of Justice Chukwu on June 8, 2016, after the prosecution had already called five witnesses.