Federal High Court sitting in Damaturu, Yobe State has rejected applications filed by former Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Abdu Bulama and four others, seeking for stay of proceedings in a N450 million fraud case.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) accused Bulama and a former Commissioner for Integrated and Rural Development in Yobe State, Hon. Mohammed Kadai, Abba Gana Tata, Muhammad Mamu and Hassan Ibn Jaks, of receiving and sharing the sum of N450m allegedly provided by Diezani Alison-Madueke, former Ministe”r of Petroleum Resources, “to influence the outcome of the 2015 Presidential election as the Coordinator of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2015 Re-election Campaign Committee in Yobe State.
Kadai was Deputy Coordinator, while the other three defendants were members of the committee.
A judge of the Damaturu High Court, Isa Dashen, had earlier discharged and acquitted the defendants after upholding their no case submission which they filed after the prosecution closed the case.
Dissatisfied by the ruling, the EFCC had filed an appeal asking the appellate court to set aside the decision of the high court. This was granted through a judgement delivered on March 3, 2021 by the Appeal Court in Gombe State.
The ex-minister was re-arraigned on November 8, 2021 alongside his co-defendants on a seven count charge of criminal conspiracy and money laundering, following the ruling of the appellate court.
According to a statement by the spokesperson, for the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren, made available to Prime Business Africa, during the resumed sitting on January 18, 2022, the defendants through their lawyers, J.J. Usman (SAN) and U.M. Isah told the court that they have approached the Supreme Court to set aside the judgment of the appellate court which dismissed their no case submission and ordered a return to the Federal High Court in Yobe State for the continuation of trial.
They argued that it would not be proper for the lower court to proceed on the matter during the pendency of the appeal at the apex court.
Opposing the prayers of the defendants, prosecution counsel, Mukhtar Ali Ahmed told the court that the EFCC is not oblivious of the fact that there is an appeal before the Supreme Court and all processes of the appeal have been received by the prosecution.
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However, he said the EFCC is not aware of any order directing the court and the judge to stay proceedings in the case.
“Appeal regarding this case at the Supreme Court is obviously different from the matter before this court as it has no correlation”, Mukhtar argued.
Justice Fadima Murtala Aminu, in her ruling, said there is no order before the court directing a stay of proceedings and there is no correlation between the appeal before the Supreme Court and the matter before her.
Consequently, she refused the applications of the defendants and ordered for accelerated hearing of the case.
The prosecution then called its first witness, Mohammed Jajere. Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Mukhtar Ali Ahmed, PW1, Jajere, a Consultant Engineer told the court how he received the sum of N23, 210, 000.00 (Twenty Three Million, Two Hundred and Ten Thousand Naira) from the fourth defendant, Muhammad Mamu, on the 21st of February, 2015, the eve of the 2015 Presidential election day, in order to influence the outcome of the election in Fune Local Government Area of Yobe State.
Justice Fadima, after listening to the testimonies of the PW1, discharged the witness and adjourned to January 19, 2022 for continuation of trial.
At the resumed hearing, Wednesday, January 19, 2022 the EFCC presented two more witnesses.
Prosecution counsel, Mukhtar Ali Ahmed led in evidence the PW2, Adam Ishaya, a politician and farmer, who described how he received the sum of N13, 150, 000.00 (Thirteen Million, One Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira) from the third defendant, Abba Gana Tata, a day to the 2015 Presidential election.
The witness said after he collected the money, he took it to a 12-member committee in Fika local government area of Yobe State for disbursement on the day of the election.
He further told the court that part of the money he received was meant for logistics for agents at all polling units in Fika local government area.
The third prosecution witness, Dauda Umar in his testimony, revealed how the first defendant made a cash withdrawal of N450million from Fidelity Bank, Damaturu branch and disbursed the said sum to influence the outcome of the 2015 Presidential election.
PW3 who is an operative of the EFCC, told the court that on 13th of April, 2016, the Maiduguri Command received an ‘intelligence report’ from the Headquarters in Abuja and it was assigned for further investigation.
Prosecution counsel, Ahmed sought to tender the statements of the defendants as evidence before the court but defence counsel objected to the admissibility of the statements on the grounds that they were not made voluntarily.
They prayed the court to order a “trial -within-trial” to determine the voluntariness of statements made by the defendants at the Maiduguri Command of the EFCC.
Justice Aminu, thereafter ordered for a trial-within-trial and adjourned the matter to January 20, February 28 and March 1, 2022 for continuation trial.
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