*Tribunal concludes trial
*adjourns for adoption of final written addresses
The Aide-de-Camp to Governor Ibrahim Gaidam of Yobe State, Assistant Superintendent of Police, Zakari Deba, accused of paying N15 million into bank accounts owned by the state’s Resident Electoral Commissioner (REC), Abu Zarma, shunned proceedings at the Yobe governorship election petition tribunal.
As was the case with Zarma the previous day, Deba, whose lawyer, Titus Ashaolu (SAN), had told the tribunal that his client was ready and willing to present his case and testify, beat a sudden retreat yesterday when he failed to attend proceedings.
Ashaolu had, last Thursday, told the tribunal that his client was on his way to Abuja and urged that proceedings be shifted to Friday when it became obvious that Zarma will not testify and Deba’s lawyer was asked to call his witness.
But, yesterday, many of those who had thronged the tribunal venue with the hope of hearing details of how and why the alleged payment was made, were disappointed when Ashaolu announced that his client was no longer willing to testify.
“We met with our client yesterday and, having perused the evidence on record led by the petitioners and the 1st and 2nd respondents (Governor Gaidam and APC), we discovered that there is no cause of action against the 5th respondent (Deba) to warrant him being put in the witness box.
“Earlier, we had raised a preliminary objection, which we will further amplify in our written address, to the extent that this tribunal has no jurisdiction to try the 5th respondent and that all actions alleged against the 5th respondent do not affect the conduct of the election. We are closing our case,” Ashaolu said.
Lawyer to Zarma, Abeny Mohammed (SAN) had, on the previous day, given similar excuse to explain his client’s absence.
Mohammed said: “the short adjournment afforded me the opportunity to review and evaluate evidence adduced by the petitioners. Our conclusion is that we are not calling any witness, but to rest our case on the case of the petitioner. I therefore close the case of the 3rd and 4th respondents (Zarma and INEC) in this petition.”
Deba and Zarma are named as the 4th and 5th respondents in the petition by the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last governorship election, Adamu Waziri and the party. Other respondents are Gaidam, his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Waziri and the PDP are, by the petition, challenging the outcome of the last governorship election in which Gaidam was declared winner. They alleged among others, that Gaidam, in a bid to compromise the REC, caused Deba to pay N15m into Zarma’s two accounts with Zenith and Diamond banks.
Earlier, the petitioners had called officials of the banks and an investigator with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), who testified in relation to the transaction and confirmed the payment.
On August 6 this year, the tribunal admitted in evidence documents, including bank statements and payment tellers, which the petitioners said were used in the transaction. The documents were tendered through an official of Diamond Bank (Damaturu Branch), Bamaji Kukawa and Head of Operation, Damaturu Branch of Zenith Bank, Umar Alkali.
Kukawa told the tribunal that the bank statement showed that N8m was paid into Zarma’s account on April 8 by Deba.
“Before the April 8, 2015 entry the bank account had N28,143.60k. The depositor was Zakari Deba,” Kukawa said in response to questions from Owonikoko.
He added that on April 13 the statement of account showed that N8m was withdrawn from the account in favour of Saleh & Hanif Company, with 25,011.45 left as balance in the account as of the end of the period covered by the statement.
Alkali said Deba deposited N7m into Zarma’s account with the bank on April 8. He noted that at the end of the period covered by the statement of account, which he tendered, a balance of N1,345,503.38 was left in the account.
On August 12, an Investigating Officer (IO) attached to the Economic Governance Team 7 of the EFCC, Christopher Adekunle Odofin said N15million was actually lodged into Zarma’s two accounts with Zenith and Diamond banks, but that the lodgements were reversed some days later, when Zarma protested.
He said the money was later paid into the GT Bank account of a company owned by Deba – Saleh & Hanif.
“From our investigation so far, we found that there was clear and concerted attempt by Deba and Kukawa to financially induce Zarma to get favour,” Odifin said.
He added that their report indicted Deba, who as a serving police officer floated a private company, which was an illegal act.
“We recommended that Deba and Kukawa be prosecuted for attempting to bribe Zarma,” Odofin said.
Yesterday, after Asaholu closed his client’s case, the tribunal Chairman, Justice Mojisola Dada announced the end of trial in the petition. She gave the respondents seven days, within which to file and serve their final written addresses; the petitioners, seven days to file their reply addresses, and extra three days for the respondents to reply on point of law.
She adjourned to September 22 for parties to adopt their final written addresses, following which a date will be chosen for judgment.