At the ongoing trial of a former Governor of Zamfara State and serving Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Ahmed Sani Yerima, over alleged diversion of state funds, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has made its final submission before Justice Bello Tukur Gummi of Zamfara State High Court 5, sitting in Gusau.
The Commission’s prosecuting counsel led by Mrs. Christiana Onuogu, after calling six witnesses and tendering 25 exhibits made their final submission while counsel to the ex-governor, Mahmud Magaji (SAN) tendered 8 exhibits.
In her submission, Mrs. Onuogu argued that the prosecution had proved the essential elements of the offences with which the former Governor was being charged, and that the principle of a no-case submission made by him failed where the defendant had explanations to make in response to the charges against him.
She also averred that the defendant’s confessional statement that he had diverted part of the One Billion Naira (N1, 000 000,000) UBA loan to other projects and services corroborated the charges preferred against him.
The action, according to her, was contrary to and punishable under Section 22 (5) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.
Mrs. Onuogu therefore prayed the court to dismiss the no-case submission entered by the defence counsel.
Having listened to the submissions made by the defence and the prosecution, the trial judge adjourned the case to 5th December 2017 for ruling on the no-case submission.
It should be recalled that Senator Yerima had earlier been arraigned in 2016 by ICPC before Justice Bello Shinkafi of High Court 4, Gusau, Zamfara State on a 19-count charge bordering on alleged diversion of N385.5million and other sums from the N1bn loan meant for the repair of a collapsed dam and rehabilitation of flood victims while he was Governor.
The case was subsequently transferred to Justice Gummi with the agreement of both the defence and prosecuting counsel on account of several adjournments because of the judge’s ill-health.
ICPC seeks to prosecute Corruption Cases in Federal High Courts, Others
Meanwhile, the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has proposed to the National Assembly for an expansion of its options of courts for the prosecution of corruption cases to include Federal High courts.
This was contained in a memorandum it presented to the House of Representatives Committee on Anti-Corruption during a public hearing organised on a bill to amend the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
The Acting Chairman of the Commission, Hon. Abdullahi Bako, who made the presentation on behalf of the Commission explained that the amendment had become necessary given the fact that the Commission is restricted by its extant law to prosecute cases only in State High courts which has hampered its prosecutorial effectiveness because high profile defendants often wield substantial influence within a state.
In the memorandum, the Commission also made other proposals for amendment such as: limiting board membership of the Commission to seven persons as against thirteen that currently obtains; returning recovered proceeds of corruption to their original sources whether Federal, State, Local Government or private persons; retaining a percentage of its recoveries to help fund the Commission; amongst others.
Speaking earlier at the opening ceremony of the occasion, the Committee Chairman, Hon. Akinloye H. Babajide, had stated that the amendment of the Act was being done to enhance and strengthen the Commission’s efficiency and effectiveness. He stressed the importance of the public hearing as a forum for the general public to make inputs in order to make a good law to aid the overall fight against corruption.
The public hearing attracted stakeholders in the country who made presentations in support of the proposed amendments.
For the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nigeria (ICAN) which was represented by their Legal Director, Mrs Ifeoma Ewosa, recovered proceeds of corruption should not just be returned to their original owners but there should be a time-frame e.g. 30 days for such a return to be carried out and also sanctions should be stipulated for non-compliance.
The representative of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s Deputy Director Legal and Prosecution Department, Mr. Jonson Ojogbane, argued strongly that it was international best practice for a law enforcement agency to retain a fraction of its recovered proceeds of crime. He therefore urged that the ICPC proposal should be accepted.
However, one of the representatives of the Nigerian Law Reforms Commission, Mr. Jerry Kodilinye Ezeobi, objected to the amendment proposal for ICPC to retain a part of its recoveries. According to him it would make the Commission deviate from its mandate of fighting corruption to seeking benefits it would gain from recoveries.
Other stakeholders who were present included representatives of the Military Service Chiefs, Code of Conduct Bureau, Nigeria Customs Service, Nigerian Law School, Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Journalists and Civil Society Groups.
Signed: Mrs Rasheedat A. Okoduwa, mni
Spokesperson for the Commission