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…orders him to defend alleged transfer
of N66m from NAF account
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA–The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Tuesday, discharged and acquitted the former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Mohammed Umar Dikko, on six out of the seven-count money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him.
The court, in a ruling that was delivered by trial Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, said it found merit in a No-Case Submission the Defendant filed in relation to counts respect of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the charge against him.
Justice Dimgba held that a holistic review of the totality of evidence before the court showed that the EFCC failed to establish a prima facie case that would warrant the Defendant to be called upon to enter his defence to the six counts.
He held that allegations in the counts were based on “speculation, suspicion and assumptions”.
“Asking the Defendant to open his defence on them will be tantamount to asking the Defendant to establish his innocence, or to prove a negative.
“This would amount again to a judicial displacement of the constitutional presumption of innocence which enures to his benefit”, the court held.
However, the court held that the former COAS has a case to answer with respect to count seven of the charge which bordered on allegation that he transferred the sum N66million from the official bank account of the Nigerian Air Force, NAF, in Stanbic IBTC bank, into the account of his lawyer, and used same to renovate his property in Asokoro, Abuja.
“Having reviewed the evidence adduced as relates to this count, I am of the view that there is a ground for proceeding with a defence in relation to it.
“There is evidence led, as shown in Exhibit AMD15, that indeed such a transfer of funds was done. And the transfer was done around March 2012 at a time when the Defendant was in charge at the NAF as the COAS.
“Evidence had been led that the property in question at Asokoro had been purchased by the Defendant (albeit through the PW1 and by proxy), and for his own personal use.
“There was no evidence or suggestion that the property was an official property or that it belonged to the NAF or was being purchased for the NAF.
“No evidence was also led that the property was being used by the Defendant for the discharge of any official business of the NAF.
“If the property was purchased as a private/personal property, though the Defendant was the COAS, how could funds then be transferred from the bank account of the NAF to the private solicitor engaged by PW1 on behalf of the Defendant for the renovation/improvement of the property purchased by/for the Defendant for his personal and not official capacity?
“The circumstances surrounding this transfer of funds raises questions bordering on breach of trust and abuse of office. An explanation is needed in the context of a defence.
“In the light of all the above, I hold that the No Case Submission of the Defendant succeeds in part and fails also in part.
“I uphold the No Case Submission in relation to Counts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
“I hereby discharge and acquit the Defendant in relation to these counts.
“I refuse and dismiss the No Case Submission in relation to Count 7.
“I hereby direct the Defendant to open his defence in relation to this count” Justice Dimgba held.
Dikko, who piloted the affairs of the Nigerian Air, NAF, between September 2010 and October 2012, was arraigned before the court on January 25, 2017.
EFCC had in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/92/2016, accused him of complicity in money laundering and procurement fraud, to the tune of about N9.7 billion.
The anti-graft agency, among other things, alleged that the Defendant, while in office as the Air Force Chief, withdrew N700m from the NAF account, and used same to purchase a choice property at a highbrow area within the Maitama District of Abuja.
He was further alleged to have fraudulently withdrawn N500m from the said NAF account to buy a four-bedroom duplex at Road 3B, Street 2, in Mabushi Ministers Hill, Abuja.
Besides, EFCC, told the court that the defendant also took N250m from the NAF’s coffers to buy a property at No. 14, Audu Bako Way, GRA, Kano State in 2011.
The Prosecution closed its case on September 29, 2020, after it called a total of 12 witnesses and tendered 19 documentary evidence before the court.
Thereafter, the Defendant who earlier pleaded not guilty to the charge, opted to make a No Case Submission in line with Section 303 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015.