The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday, re-arraigned the former governor of Kaduna State, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero.
Also re-arraigned with the ex-governor were former Minister of State, Nuhu Somo Waya; former Kaduna State PDP Chairman, Abubakar Haruna Gaya and the former Secretary to the State Government, Hamza Ishaq.
They were arraigned before Justice Z.B Abubakar of the Federal High Court Kaduna on an 8-count amended charge bordering on conspiracy, bribery, money laundering and criminal diversion of funds to the tune of N700million (seven Hundred Million Naira) only.
Their prosecution began after investigations revealed that the accused persons allegedly benefited in the $115million diverted by former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison Madueke which was shared to politicians and election officials in the 36 States of the federation to influence the result of the 2015 presidential election.
Investigations further revealed that Kaduna State benefitted over N700million in two instalments. The money was received by the trio of Waya, Gaya and Ishaq on behalf of the State for onward delivery to INEC staff spread across the 23 Local Government Areas of the State.
Count one of the charge reads: “That you, Mukhtar Ramalan Yero (whilst being the Executive Governor of Kaduna State), Nuhu Somo Waya (whilst being a former Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria), Ishaq Hamza (whilst being the Secretary to the Kaduna State Government), and Abubakar Gaya Haruna (whilst being the Chairman PDP Kaduna State Chapter), sometime in 2015 in Kaduna within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court (Federal High Court) did conspire amongst yourselves to commit a crime to wit: indirectly taking possession of the of N700, 000, 000 (Seven Hundred Million Naira) which you ought to have known forms part of unlawful activity to wit: bribery and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) in 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the Same Act”.
All defendants pleaded not guilty to all the eight count charge read against them.
Upon their pleas, counsel to the EFCC, Joshua Saidi, prayed the court to fix a date for commencement of trial. But Yunus Ustaz Usman, SAN, representing the defendants, appealed that all defendants should be admitted to the existing bail granted to them when they were first arraigned earlier in the year by the Court.
The court ruled that since all defendants have already been granted bail without any hitch, she would rely on the existing conditions.
She therefore ruled that the former bail conditions remain valid and should stand.
In a related development, the Commission also re- arraigned one Abdulrasheed Baba Ahmed before Justice Z.B Abubakar on a 2-count charge of money laundering and retention of proceeds of alleged criminal activity to the tune of N190,444,000.
The accused, who was Director, Finance and Administration, Ministry of Justice, Kaduna State, is alleged to have in March 2015, received the said sum, being part of the funds released by Diezani Allison-Madueke, a former Petroleum Resources minister to influence the outcome of the 2015 election.
He allegedly received the money from the Ali Akilu Road branch of a new generation bank. The money was purportedly meant to induce staff of INEC and Corps members on election duties. In the course of investigation, the accused person could not provide any evidence regarding how the money was disbursed.
One of the counts read, “That you Raheed Baba Ahmed, the former Director of Finance, Ministry of Justice, Kaduna Division of this Honourable Court did directly take possession of the aggregate sum of N 190,444,000.00 (One Hundred and Ninety Million, Four Hundred and Forty Four Thousand Naira) which sum you reasonably ought to have known, forms part of proceeds of unlawful activity to wit: bribery, and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) of the money laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2012 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act”.
He however pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The re-arraignment of all above accused persons was as a result of the transfer of Justice S.M Shuaibu to another jurisdiction.
Justice Abubakar however adjourned all the cases comprising that of the former Governor and three others to January 24, 2019 and that of Abdulrasheed Baba Ahmed to January 29, 2019 for commencement of trial.