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Court strikes out fresh N400m money laundering charge against Olisa Metuh

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A federal high court in Abuja has struck out a money laundering charge preferred against Olisa Metuh, a former national publicity secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

In a ruling delivered on Monday, Emeka Nwite, the presiding judge, held that the fresh charge by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) amounts to an abuse of the judicial process.

The EFCC had, in 2016, arraigned Metuh on seven counts of money laundering bordering on allegedly receiving N400 million from the office of the national security adviser.

Okon Abang, a federal high court judge, on February 25, 2020, pronounced Metuh guilty on all counts and sentenced him to seven years in prison.

Dissatisfied with the court’s decision, Metuh, through his counsel, filed an appeal in March 2020.

As part of the 10 issues raised for determination by the appellate court, Metuh argued that he was not given a fair trial.

He submitted that the trial judge was biased, citing some of the remarks made during the trial.

Delivering judgment on December 16, 2020, a three-member panel of justices agreed that the trial judge showed bias against the appellant.

Consequently, he was released from prison on December 24, 2020.

In line with the court of appeal order, Metuh’s case file was re-assigned to Emeka Nwite for the defendant to take a fresh plea.

The EFCC subsequently approached the supreme court to challenge the verdict of the court of appeal.

At the resumed court session, Metuh, through his lawyer, Afam Osigwe, challenged the legal propriety of the new charge against him and urged the court to strike it out.

But the EFCC, through its lawyer, Olanrewaju Adeola, prayed the court to adjourn the case indefinitely pending the outcome of the appeal.

Osigwe, however, asked the court to strike out the fresh charge filed by the EFCC.

“From issues set out at the supreme court, there is no way the matter will come back to this court,” he said.

“Their application is for the matter to either be returned to the court of appeal or for the matter to be heard by the supreme court.

“The appropriate action is for this court to strike out the matter, while the supreme court decides on the appeal before it.”

Tochukwu Onwugbufor, counsel representing Destra Investment Limited, Metuh’s company, aligned his submissions with Osigwe’s argument.

In his ruling, the judge noted that the EFCC ought not to have filed a fresh charge since its appeal against the appellate court’s decision is still pending at the supreme court.

“It is uncalled for… for the prosecution to bring a fresh charge when the other charge is still pending. The action is in gross abuse of the court process,” the judge said.

“Consequently, the charge is hereby struck out for constituting an abuse of the court process.”

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EFCC launches manhunt for Kano APC senatorial candidate, Abdulsalam Zaura over ‘$1.3m fraud

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) says it is making efforts to arrest Abdulsalam Zaura, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for Kano central senatorial district, over alleged fraud.

Ahmad Rogha, counsel to EFCC, said this on Monday while speaking with journalists at the federal high court in Kano.

BACKGROUND

In 2018, EFCC had arraigned Zaura, better known as A.A. Zaura, on a five-count charge bordering on fraud before a federal high court in Kano.

The anti-graft agency had accused Zaura of defrauding a Kuwaiti national by obtaining the sum of $1,320,000 under the pretext that he is in the business of building properties in Dubai, Kuwait, and other Arab countries.

In June 2020, Lewis Allagoa, the presiding judge, found the defendant not guilty and discharged him on all counts.

Dissatisfied with the judgment, the EFCC approached the court of appeal.

In April 2022, a court of appeal sitting in Kano ordered a fresh trial.

TRIAL STALLED OVER ABSENCE OF JUDGE

On Monday, the trial of Zaura was stalled because Mohammad Yunusa, the judge, was absent from court as he was said to be attending to other national issues outside Kano.

In the previous court sitting, the trial judge had ordered the EFCC to produce the accused person in court owing to the latter’s absence.

Speaking on the development, Rogha said the defendant was supposed to be in EFCC custody, adding that the agency will ensure he is in court at the next sitting.

“We are looking for Zaura and he will be arrested as soon as we find him,” he said.

“Ordinarily, he was supposed to be in our custody and the court has affirmed that. But I can assure you, he would be arrested and brought to court on the next adjourned date — 30th January, 2023.”

In a counter argument, Ibrahim Waru, counsel to the defendant, said EFCC does not possess any legal authority to arrest his client.

Waru also said it was not necessary for his client to be in court on Monday since the court did not sit.

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Budget Padding: Senate clears Finance Minister, Zainab Ahmed

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The Senate has on Monday cleared the Minister of Finance , Budget and National Planning , Mrs Zainab Ahmed of alleged insertions in budgetary provisions of some Ministries , Departments and Agencies ( MDAs).

The Senate gave the Finance Minister a clean bill of health on alleged series of puddings in the proposed N20.51trillion 2023 budget when she appeared before the Senator Barau Jibrin, APC, Kano North led Senate Committee on Appropriations to make clarifications on the issues

Satisfied by her submission , the Chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, Senator Jibrin said that the clarifications presented by the Minister were well understood by all the committee members and thereafter hailed her for ensuring transparency with capturing of such loans or grants in the budget .

Meanwhile, the Senate has frowned at shoddy implementation of the National Social Investment Programme ( NSIP) based on lack of records of verifiable beneficiaries .

In her presentation, the Finance Minister told the Committee that the various sums some heads of agencies feigned ignorance of during their interface with relevant committees for budget defence , were approved by the Federal Executive Council ( FEC), before budget presentation itself by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday , October 7, 2022.

Ahmed said, “All the proposed budgetary sums like the N206billion in the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development , the N8.6billion in the Ministry of Defence , N195.468billion in the estimates for the Ministry of Power etc , were all captured before presentation by Mr President.

“Most of these sums are bilateral or multilateral loans captured in the budget of agencies selected for projects execution for sole purpose of transparency.

“The totality of such loans captured in the proposed budget of the relevant agencies is N1.771trillion .

“Had heads of the affected MDAs carried out thorough scrutinization of their approved budgetary proposals , the issue of insertion or budget padding wouldn’t have arisen at all, realization of which made the Minister of Defence , Bashir Magsshi to apologise after feigning ignorance of N8.6billion in his Ministry’s budget during interface with Senate Committee on Defence “

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Naira redesign may be declared illegal if challenged in court, says Falana

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Femi Falana, human rights lawyer, says the redesign of the naira may be illegal if President Muhammadu Buhari did not seek approval of the national assembly for the funds used for the initiative.

On November 23, Buhari unveiled the new currency notes at the state house, Abuja.

The redesigned naira notes are expected to be in circulation on December 15.

Godwin Emefiele, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), had on October 26 announced the plan to redesign the naira to control money supply and aid security agencies in tackling illicit financial flows.

Falana, in a statement on Sunday, said the president’s endorsement of the CBN’s naira redesign policy is not legally sufficient.

He said the president should have presented a “money bill” to the national assembly to seek approval for the funds used for the project.

Falana said the expense is not captured in the 2022 budget, adding that the president must comply with the provision of section 59 of the 1999 constitution (as amended).

“However, the official endorsement is not sufficient as the president is mandatorily required to present a money bill to the national assembly for the withdrawal of the billions of naira from public funds earmarked for the printing of the new naira notes,” the statement reads.

“Specifically, section 59 of the constitution requires “an appropriation bill or supplementary bill including any other bill for the payment, issue or withdrawal from the Consolidated Revenue Fund or any other public fund of the Federation of any money charged thereon or any alteration in the amount of such payment, issue or withdrawal.

“Since the fund for the printing of the new naira notes is not captured in the 2022 appropriation bill, the president is advised to prepare and present a supplementary bill to the national assembly to authorise the withdrawal of public fund from any account of the federation for printing the new naira notes.

“Otherwise, the printing of the new naira without appropriation by the national assembly may be declared illegal and unconstitutional if it is challenged in a court of competent jurisdiction.”

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