BY VICTOR BUORO, ABUJA – A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja and presided over by Justice Inyang Ekwo on Wednesday frowned at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), over an alleged publication of false information against Senator Shehu Sani, who is standing trial in court.
The EFCC on January 27, 2020 arraigned Sani on a two counts charge of bribery and advanced fee fraud premised on an allegation of “collecting 25,000 dollars″ in the name of the EFCC acting chairman, Ibrahim Magu.
The EFCC on February 25, published a news story on its official twitter handle ‘@officialEFCC’ with the headline ‘EFCC presents witnesses Against Shehu Sani Over Alleged $10m Fraud’.
This attracted the attention of the legal counsel to Sani, Mr Abdul Ibrahim Esq., who drew the attention of the Court to the publication by the EFCC on its r verified official twitter handle, @officialEFCC indicating that Sani was before the court in respect to a $10 million fraud rather than and 25,000 dollars.
Ibrahim said; “The story they put out there for the public is that he was charged for $10m which is not true.”
He then tendered a printout copy of the publication before the court as evidence.
But Counsel to the EFCC, Mr Abba Mohammed Esq., said that he was not aware of the publication adding that the news came to him as a shock.
According to him; “I view this as an attempt to instigate the court against the prosecution. It is just a print out of a purported EFCC handle and anybody can do it.”
However, Justice Ekwo cautioned the prosecutor saying; “anybody can do anything when they are allowed to do so.”
Justice Ekwo advised the parties to observe and comment on happenings in court only, stressing that there should be no commentary on the substance of the case before the court.
In the word of Ekwo; “Parties should trust that the will of law in this matter will be achieved. I don’t want to be put in a position of being distracted from doing my duty. The records of court are public documents that can be applied for. So, this should not happen again,” the trial judge warned.
Before then, the EFCC prosecuting counsel presented its Third and Fourth witnesses in the trial of Senator Sani.
While testifying, the Third Prosecution Witness (PW3), Mr. Remi Jones said he has being working with Zenith Bank as a Compliance Officer for over four years and was requested on January13, 2020 by the prosecution to present the bank details of one Mr Ahmed Abubakar.
Jones said some of the documents requested for were Abubakar’s account opening package, statement of account opening, adding that he requested for the account opening package from the domicile branch.
He said; “I got a copy. I certified it and printed the statement of account. I compared the breakdown with what is stored on the system, I found it to be correct and also certified it. I also attached the certificate of identification, stating the conditions and our response was sent back to the EFCC.”
Counsel to the EFCC, Mohammed then tendered the retrieved documents before the court as Exhibit.
The prosecution witness 3 also said that based on the account statement of Abubakar, on November 20, 2019, there was an inflow of N5 million from ASD Motors Nigeria Limited account domicile at Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB).
During cross examination, Defence Counsel, Ibrahim asked PW3 if the defendant was the beneficiary and he responded that he was not aware of who the beneficiary was adding however that it wasn’t Shehu Sani based on the account statement placed before him.
Similarly, the Fourth Prosecution witness (PW4), who is a Bureau de Change operator, Mallam Abubakar Ahmed, said that on November 19, 2019, the son of Alhaji Dauda Sani by name Mohammed Sani, informed him that his dad wanted him to do a transaction with him.
Ahmed said; “On November 20, 2019, Dauda Sani called me that he wanted to change dollar equivalent to N5 million. Dauda Sani brought a GTB Cheque to me worth 13,930 dollars.
“I gave my staff the cheque to go to the bank to do a transfer from GTB to my personal with Zenith bank account because the cheque was of GTB and I received the alert.”
Ahmed said he did not see Senator Shehu Sani at Alhaji Dauda Sani’s house, stressing that he had never met Senator Sani in person except only in news.
The prosecution counsel said he had listed 14 witnesses in the case and has so far presented 4 before the court.
After listening, Justice Ekwo adjourned the case to May 4th, 5th and 6th for continuation of trial.