CRIME

Alleged N1.35bn Fraud: Court Continues To  Adjourn Ex-Gov Sule Lamido’s Trail

Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, has adjourned the trial of a former Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, his two sons, Aminu and Mustapha, Aminu Wada Abubakar, Bamaina Holdings Ltd and Speeds International Ltd to November 5, 2021 for the continuation of cross examination of the star prosecution witness, Michael Wetkas. .

The defendants are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a 43-count charge bordering on money laundering and abuse of office to the tune of N1.35billion.

At the last adjournment, the witness, Wetkas, demonstrated to the Court how the defendants used their companies to receive several payments suspected to be kickbacks from contractors masked as payments for sub-contracts while Lamido was governor.

Wetkas, with the aid of a chart, showed the Court how Lamido received payments into his personal accounts from Dantata and Sawoe Construction Company, Interior Woodworks Ltd., and A.G Ferrero & Co Ltd, who were contractors in Jigawa State via Bamaina Holdings Ltd. and Speeds International Ltd accounts which has him and the 3rd defendant, Mustapha, as sole signatories.

At the resumed hearing on Thursday,  November 4, 2021, Wekas, an investigator with the EFCC was cross examined by the lead defence counsel, Joe Agi, SAN. Responding to claims by Agi that the 1st defendant was targeted by the Commission because of his political aspiration to be president of Nigeria, Wetkas explained that the investigation has no political connotation.

He explained that the investigation of former Governor Sule Lamido was triggered by the arrest of one of his sons, Aminu, at the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport for failing to declare Forty Thousand United States Dollars ($40,000) to the authorities on his way to Egypt.

Agi also sought to know from the witness what he meant by kickback in his earlier testimony against the 1st defendant. Wetkas explained that kickback, in his understanding, is benefit derived for an official act by a person in position of authority. The defence counsel then asked whether this definition applies to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th defendants, being private citizens.

At this stage, the prosecuting counsel, Chile Okoroma, objected to the line of questioning by the learned silk. He argued that the charge before the Court borders on money laundering, adding that that what should interest the court is whether the defendants benefitted from the alleged crime. “It is a case of money laundering and the person involved may not actually know what the money is for, and they must not be public officers,” he said

Justice Ojukwu acknowledge the argument of the prosecution but allowed the defence to continue with the cross-examination. Aji again posed the question, whether the classification of kickback applies to all the defendants. Wetkas explained that, though the 2nd and 3rd defendants are not government officials, “they are directors in the companies”. “Yes, they are not officials of the Jigawa State Government, but they are directors of the companies, and the companies have only one signatory, which is the 1st defendant”

Meanwhile, Justice Ojukwu granted the 1st defendant permission to travel to Germany for medicals. The Judge directed the Court registrar to release Sule Lamido’s passport, and ordered the Nigeria Immigration Service and other law enforcement agencies, including the EFCC, not to prevent him from traveling. He is expected to return the document on December 6, 2021.

The case was adjourned to tomorrow, Friday, November 5, 2021 for continuation of trial.

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