By Tayo Joseph Lagos, Nigeria
The Attorney General of Sokoto State, Suleiman Usman is to take over the prosecution of the corruption charge brought against a serving Commissioner in Sokoto state and former Permanent Secretary of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs in the administration of ex-governor Aliyu Wamakko, Mohammed Bello, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. This followed a ruling today by Justice Idrissa Kolo on the fiat by Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami SAN which purportedly allows the State Attorney General to take over criminal cases being prosecuted by any agency of the government including the EFCC.
The initial Fiat annexed to the application of the Attorney General of Sokoto State was dated 30 January, 1995 authored by Chief M.A Agbamuche SAN, the then Attorney General of the Federation but it was later replaced by another one dated 30th January, 2017 authored by the incumbent AGF, Abubakar Malami SAN.
The case with charge No. FHC/S/22C/2014 between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Mohammed Bello, Abubakar Abdullahi Ahmed, Rose Gallery Nigeria Limited, Silver Spring Global Concept Limited and Sitex Multiservice Limited has been under prosecution by the Commission since 2014 before Justice R.M Aikawa of the Federal High Court Sokoto who was recently transferred to Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.
The defendants were charged with 43 counts which borders on Money Laundering, Forgery and Uttering. The charge followed an investigation which uncovered that money running into hundreds of millions was diverted by the first and second defendants during the first defendant’s tenure as the Permanent Secretary for Local government and Chieftaincy Affairs of Sokoto State.
The alleged diversion was perpetrated through the 3rd to 5th defendants in the charge which are said to be companies owned by the first and second defendants who used their relatives as directors of the companies.
In the course of trial, the prosecution had called its first witness, the investigation officer. However, when the matter was called on 24 November, 2016 the Attorney General of Sokoto State Suleiman Usman announced appearance and informed the court that he intended to take over the case.
The reason given by the Attorney General of Sokoto State for the takeover of the case was to serve the interest of justice, public interest and to make sure that the legal process is not abused. The prosecution counsel, S.K Atteh in his response, expressed fears on how a serving Commissioner can diligently prosecute his fellow Commissioner and be expected to serve the interest of justice and public good.
The then trial judge, R.M Aikawa made an order asking the Attorney General of the Federation to either appear in person or send a representative or write to the court to clarify whether or not, he had authorized the Attorney General of Sokoto State to take over the prosecution of the case.
In today’s proceeding Mohammed, who was holding brief for the Attorney General of Sokoto State moved his application to take over the matter.
Counsel representing the first defendant Y. C Maikyau SAN who also holds brief for counsel representing the 2nd,3rd and 5th defendants made his submissions in which he supported the idea of the Attorney General of Sokoto State taking over the case from the EFCC.
Counsel for the 4th defendant I.A Sule aligned himself with the submission of the Maikyau.
Prosecution counsel S.K Atteh however informed the court that he has affidavit of service which he served the office of the Attorney General of the Federation, asking for clarification on whether this particular case was covered by the Fiat issued to the Attorney General of Sokoto State but there has been no response from the AGF. Atteh asked the court for an adjournment pending when the Commission receives a reply from the AGF but the application was refused.
Justice Kolo held that the application for the takeover of the charge by the Attorney General of Sokoto State was in order and in line with the provisions of the constitution. He therefore granted the application as prayed, even as he advised parties dissatisfied with the decision to seek redress at the appellate court.