An Ikeja Special Offences Court on Wednesday dismissed a N254 million bribery suit filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Albert Bassey, the senator representing Akwa-Ibom North-East.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo in a ruling, dismissed the suit due to lack of jurisdiction and advised the anti-graft commission to file the suit in Akwa-Ibom State where the alleged bribe took place.
“The issue of jurisdiction is a fundamental one. In the instant case, the prosecution had failed to give reasons why the suit should be heard within this jurisdiction.
“This court lacks jurisdiction to adjudicate on this matter. I hereby strike out this suit for lack of jurisdiction.
“The prosecution should file the charges in Akwa-Ibom where the alleged fraud took place,” Justice Taiwo said.
Mr Bassey, 46, is faced with corruption charges proffered against him by the EFCC for receiving alleged bribes of 12 cars worth N254m from an oil marketer, Olajide Omokore, during his tenure (2010-2014) as the Akwa-Ibom Commissioner for Finance.
The anti-graft commission claimed that the car gifts were given to Mr Bassey by Mr Omokore in exchange for contracts from the Akwa-Ibom State Government.
The senator was to face a 14-count corruption charge alongside Mr Omokore at an Ikeja Special Offences Court.
Mr Bassey was to specifically face seven-counts of corruption by a public officer and a public officer inviting bribes as a result of his own action.
Mr Omokore was to face a seven-count charge of offering gratification to a public officer and giving bribe on account of the action of a public officer.
Counsels to the defendant, Solomon Umoh (SAN) and Olatunde Adejuyigbe (SAN), had respectively filed applications contending that the court had no power to hear the substantive case.
Mr Bassey’s counsel, Umoh, had argued that there was nothing before the court to prove that the alleged crime against Bassey was committed outside Akwa-Ibom or in Lagos State.
“There is nothing in the proof of evidence that suggested that any aspect of the alleged crime against the first defendant was committed outside Akwa-Ibom State and in Lagos State.
“Happily, the prosecution has narrowed everything down that it was cars that was delivered to the first defendant by the second defendant.
“So we want to ask where the cars were delivered to so we can know what Lagos has to do with Akwa-Ibom State but we have provided the answers in our argument, the cars were delivered in Akwa-Ibom State.
“If he (Bassey) received in Akwa-Ibom State, how come they are coming to try him in Lagos State.
“The prosecution have not shown how the first defendant came to Lagos to receive vehicles. They have not shown it anywhere in the proof of evidence.”
Mr Umoh, who further argued that Bassey’s name was not mentioned in the petition written to the EFCC, urged the court to grant his application.
Similarly, Omokore’s counsel, Mr Adejuyigbe, SAN had argued that the contending issue was not insufficiency of evidence but whether they were in the right court.
He further argued that in determining the issue of jurisdiction, the court was not bound by the place stated in the charge.
He said, “The count against the second defendant relates to receiving gratification or giving bribe.
“The section under which those counts were charged did not state time of purchase, place of purchase, mode of payment so we cannot be asking the court to rewrite the law,” he said.
However, the prosecution counsel, Sadisu Abubakar, had argued that the EFCC has the right to try the case before the court.
He said the applicants tied the issue of jurisdiction to the issue of insufficiency of evidence which he noted was an abuse of court processes.
The offences, according to the EFCC, contravene sections 63 (1) (a), 64 (1) (a) and 98(1), (a), (i) of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2011.
Buhari Reads New Riot Act to Ministers, Heads of Agencies, Others on Foreign Travel
In a bid to curb leakages and ensure efficiency in the management of resources of government, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved for immediate implementation, additional cost saving measures aimed at instilling financial discipline and prudence, particularly, in the area of official travels.
According to a statement issued by the Office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation Wednesday, all Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) are now required to submit their Yearly Travel Plans for statutory meetings and engagements to the Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and/or the Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation for express clearance within the first quarter of the fiscal year, before implementation.
They are further required to make their presentation using the existing template and also secure approvals on specific travels as contained in the plan, from the appropriate quarters.
On the nature and frequency of travels, the statement said, all public funded travels (local and foreign) must be strictly for official purposes backed with documentary evidence.
”In this regard, all foreign travels must be for highly essential statutory engagements that are beneficial to the interest of the country. Except with the express approval of Mr. President, Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Chairmen of Extra-Ministerial Departments, Chief Executive Officers and Directors are restricted to not more than two (2) foreign travels in a quarter.”
When a Minister is at the head of an official delegation, according to the statement, the size of such delegation shall not exceed four including the relevant Director, Schedule Officer and one Aide of the Minister.
”Every other delegation below ministerial level shall be restricted to a maximum of three.”
For Class of Air Travels, President Buhari approved that Ministers, Permanent Secretaries, Special Advisers, Senior Special Assistants to the President, Chairmen of Extra-Ministerial Departments and Chief Executive Officers of Parastatals who are entitled would continue to fly Business Class while other categories of Public Officers are to travel on Economy Class.
Also, travel days will no longer attract payment of Estacode Allowances as duration of official trips shall be limited to only the number of days of the event as contained in the supporting documents to qualify for public funding, the statement added.
”The Auditor-General of the Federation has been directed to treat all expenditures that contravene these guidelines as ineligible.”
Police Uncover Another Torture Centre with 300 Inmates in Buhari’s Hometown, Daura
The Police in Katsina State on Monday arrested the owner of a rehabilitation centre in Daura where over 300 inmates were being subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment. Some of the teachers were also said to have sexually molested the inmates at the centre owned by Mallam Bello Maialmajri.
The 78-year-old cleric was arrested alongside two other men, whose names were not disclosed.
Last month, the police in Kaduna State rescued over 300 boys from an Islamic school, where they were allegedly chained, sexually abused and tortured.
The Katsina State Commissioner of Police, Sanusi Buba, who led the operation at about 1pm, expressed shock at the new discovery.
The centre is located at Nasarawa Quarters, in the Sabongari area of Daura.
Daura is President Muhammadu Buhari’s hometown.
After inspecting the rehabilitation centre, Buba ordered the Daura Divisional Police Officer, ASP M.O.Wakili, cordon off the centre.
The CP said, “We learnt that the inmates here are over 300. The inmates revolted yesterday (Sunday) because of the inhuman treatment they were being subjected to.
“Some of the inmates escaped while the ones you are seeing, about 60, stayed back.
“The inmates are from various parts of Nigeria, including Katsina, as well as from Niger Republic. I will meet with the Emir of Daura and Governor Aminu Masari on the issue. We will do the profiling of the remaining inmates to determine where they are from and we will thereafter appeal to their parents and their guardians to come and collect them.”
He added, “As you heard from the inmates, apart from being subjected to inhuman treatment, some of their so-called teachers practised homosexual acts with them. Although the teachers escaped when my men came here after the inmates revolted, we shall get all of them and they would face the full wrath of the law.
“From what I have seen here, the old man, who is the owner of this place and who is over 78 years old, does not have the capacity and facilities to run this place again.”
One of the inmates, Abubakar Saminu,16, from Yobe State said his parents brought him to the centre because he was always stealing.
He said,”My parents brought me here because they believed I would be cured of my stealing problem. But they would beat us, starve us and subject us to inhuman treatment here.”
It was learnt that Maialmajri had already handed the running of the centre to his son, Umar, who reportedly escaped when police arrived.
The Emir of Daura, Dr . Umar Farouq, who spoke in Hausa, said, “We in Daura will not support any act of lawlessness. We want the law to take its course.”
Charges Against Sowore, Mockery of Justice System – SERAP
Anti-corruption advocacy group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, has urged the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), to enter a nolle prosequi to terminate the charges filed against the convener of #RevolutionNow protest, Omoyele Sowore, and Olawale Bakare, alias Mandate.
In an open letter on Sunday by its Deputy Director, Kolawole Oludare, SERAP said the charges which centre on insulting President Muhammadu Buhari would only make a mockery of the Nigerian criminal justice system.
SERAP advised Malami to activate his power of nolle prosequi under Section 174 of the constitution to terminate the charges against Sowore and Mandate “and several other similar trumped-up cases going on in several states.”
SERAP said, “Sowore’s case and several similar cases instigated/brought by state governors make a hideous mockery of Nigeria’s criminal justice system, rule of law, freedom of expression and media freedom.
“These cases are persecution and not prosecution. As a guardian of the public interest, you (Malami) have a role to end this travesty now, and to maintain the sanctity and integrity of Nigeria’s justice system.
“These cases set a dangerous precedent for the misuse and subversion of the justice system, which may lead to the politicisation of judiciary. This will be bad for everyone – ordinary citizens, journalists and even the politicians in power, as they may themselves become targets of these repressive and abusive tactics when they are out of power/in opposition.”
SERAP said while the Federal Government had the responsibility to prevent and prosecute criminal offences, it ought to do so lawfully, and in full compliance with human rights and the rule of law.
Also, a Lagos-based lawyer, Mr Solomon Okedara, described Section 24(1) of the Cybercrime Act under which Sowore was charged with insulting the President as “repressive, oppressive and largely unconstitutional.”
Okedara said, “In fact, I am of the opinion that proceeding with such a charge particularly when the person allegedly insulted is the President will rather paint the image of the President and the country in bad light before the comity of nations.
“This is aside the fact that Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act does not meet the requirement of permissible restriction to freedom of expression. Having worked on the Cybercrime Act and indeed Section 24 both as a practitioner and researcher, it is clear that Section 24 of the Cybercrime Act is indeed an insult to our hard-earned democracy and same does not deserve a place in our laws.”
Meanwhile, the Executive Chairman, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership, Mr Debo Adeniran, has advised President Muhammadu Buhari not to allow himself to be embarrassed Malami against Sowore.
Adeniran, who described the charges against Sowore as trumped-up and face-saving, argued that it was obvious that government had no grounds to continue to hold Sowore.
The CACOL chairman said this in a Facebook post on Sunday.
He said, “FG has no good reason to hold Sowore anymore; the trumped-up charges are (a) face-saving strategy with no substance!
“President Buhari, please don’t allow Malami to embarrass you any further. Order Sowore’s immediate release and damn it!”