…ex-Adamawa gov, others stole N29bn; Ohakim N270m’
By ADE ADESOMOJU
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Wednesday arraigned former governors of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako, and Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim, before the Federal High Court in Abuja for alleged fraud charges.
Nyako, who was removed as Adamawa State Governor by the state House of Assembly on July 15, 2014, was arraigned along with his son, Abdul-Aziz, and others comprising, Zulkifikk Abba, Abubakar Aliyu as well as five firms.
Abdul-Aziz is the senator representing Adamawa Central in the National Assembly.
Nyako, his son and others were arraigned before Justice Evoh Chukwu for fraud amounting to N29,099,430,879.92.
Other firms arraigned along with Nyako and his son, were Blue Opal Limited, Sebore Farms and Extension Limited, Pagoda Fortunes Limited, Tower Assets Management Limited and Crust Energy Limited.
All the accused persons pleaded not guilty to the 37 counts and the judge subsequently ordered that they be remanded in the EFCC custody pending the hearing of their bail applications.
Simultaneously, the EFCC arraigned Ohakim, who was governor of Imo State between May 2007 and May 2011, on three counts of money laundering. He was accused of making cash payment of $2,290,000 (an equivalent of N270,000,000) for the purchase of a property at 60, Kwame Nkrumah Street, at Plot No 1098, Cadastral Zone A04, Asokoro District, Abuja.
In the counts 1 to 13 of the charge FHC/ABJ/CR/293/15 filed on July 7, 2015, against Nyako and others, the EFCC alleged that between September 26, 2011 and May 31, 2012, the accused persons converted to their personal use a sum of N1.845bn claimed to be funds belonging to the Adamawa State Government.
The accused allegedly “routed” the money through Admak Investment Limited, Tower Assets Management Limited and Blue Opal Limited accounts “with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the money” thereby committing an offence under section 15 (1)(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.
In counts 14 to 23, the prosecution alleged that between February 2011 and December 2014, the accused persons “collaborated in disguising the genuine origin” of a total of N24.725bn said to have been “derived from cheques issued in the name of Special Services Department/Mary P. and illegally placed under the control of Ma’aji Iro, the then Regional Manager of Zenith Bank Plc, North-East, Nigeria.
The accused persons allegedly kept the money under the control of Iro “for private use as against the official use with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the said sum,” thereby committing an offence under section 15(1)(b) ) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.
In counts 24 to 29, the prosecution alleged that Nyako and others between February 9, 2013 and July 22, 2013, “by false pretence and with intent to defraud, induced the Adamawa State Government to deliver” a total sum of N846m to one Sebore Farms and Extension Limited in the name of maintaining peace and security in the state.
The alleged offences were contrary to section 1(1) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under section 1(3) of the same Act.
In counts 30 to 35, Nyako and his co-accused were accused of lodgments of money totalling about N836m derived from the stealing of Adamawa State Government’s money into the account of Sebore Farms and Extension Limited with Zenith Bank Plc.
It was alleged that the money was paid into Sebore Farms’ account between February 9, 2012 and July 22, 2013 in the name of maintaining peace and security in the state and was placed under Iro’s control “for private use as against the official use with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the said money.”
In counts 36 and 37, the accused persons allegedly between February 9, 2012 and July 22, 2013 conspired among themselves and did “by false pretence and with the intent to defraud the Adamawa State Government delivered N847m to Sebore Farms and Extension” in the name of maintaining peace and security in the state.
The sum of N847m was said to have been converted to a manager’s cheque in favour of Apo Federal Housing Authority, Abuja, constituting an offence under section 8 (a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act 2006 and punishable under section 1(3) of the same Act.
Ohakim also pleaded not guilty to the three counts of money laundering charges involving alleged making cash payment of $2,290,000 (an equivalent of N270,000,000) for the purchase of a property at 60, Kwame Nkrumah Street, at Plot No 1,098, Cadastral Zone A04, Asokoro District, Abuja.
The former governor, who was accused of making the cash payment in November 2008, was also accused of collaborating with Tweenex Consociates H.D. Ltd. to conceal or disguise the ownership of the property which was allegedly derived from an illegal act.
The fraud was allegedly perpetrated by the former governor “by instructing the drafting and signing of a sales agreement over the said property between one Mukhtari Isa Maidabino and Tweenex Consciates H.D. Limited and also a tenancy agreement between Tweenex Consociates H.D. Ltd. and Chief Ikedi Ohakim over the same property” on November 14, 2008.
The first and second counts were said to have violated section 15(1)(d) and section 14(1)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, respectively.
In the third count, Ohakim was accused of failing to make a full disclosure of his assets by not declaring his ownership of the said property while he was under arrest by the EFCC on January 26, 2013.
The prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Mr. Yusuf Aliyu, had immediately after Nyako and his co-accused pleaded not guilty to the 37 counts, called the first prosecution witness to enter the witness box.
But the defence counsel, Chief Kanu Agabi (SAN), pleaded for time to get familiarised with the charge which he said was just served on him on Tuesday.
The EFCC counsel also said he needed time to respond to the bail application filed by the accused persons.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola also adjourned hearing of the bail application filed by Ohakim, who is being prosecuted by Festus Keyamo, till Thursday (today).
In the separate proceedings, Justice Chukwu and Justice Ademola ordered the accused persons to be remanded in the EFCC custody pending the hearing of their bail applications.