The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission told a Federal Capital Territory High Court in Gudu, Abuja, on Tuesday, that a former Governor of Plateau State, Mr. Joshua Dariye, was still wanted in the United Kingdom for alleged money laundering.
The commission said the former governor escaped to Nigeria after jumping bail that was granted him in London in 2004.
Dariye, who was later elected Senator, representing Plateau Central in the 2015 general elections, is being prosecuted on 23 counts of money laundering and diversion of Plateau State’s N1.126bn ecological funds while he was the state governor.
Under cross-examination by the defence counsel, Mr. Garba Pwul (SAN), on Tuesday, the EFCC’s first prosecution witness, Mr. Sunday Musa, who is also a detective with the anti-graft agency, said the London Investigating Police Officer, Mr. Peter Clark, visited Nigeria in the course of EFCC’s investigation into the case against Dariye.
“The defendant (Dariye) was granted police bail by the UK police and he jumped bail. The Investigating Police Officer in London, Peter Clark, was in Nigeria in the course of our investigation,” Musa said.
Dariye was Plateau State governor between May 29, 1999 and May 2007 but was abruptly impeached in 2004 before he was reinstated.
Seven years after the charges were instituted against Dariye, the trial began on Tuesday following a Supreme Court’s judgment delivered on February 27, 2015, laying to rest an interlocutory application filed by Dariye and which had stalled the case since it was filed in 2007.
The apex court had, after dismissing Dariye’s appeal in the judgment, ordered Dariye to submit himself to trial.
The prosecution had on Monday called Musa as its first witness, who narrated to the court, presided over by Justice Adebukola Banjoko, how Dariye allegedly diverted the state’s N1.126bn ecological funds to his personal bank account.
The witness said investigation by the EFCC operatives revealed that the former governor had, in 2001, applied for the funds in the name of his state.
But Dariye allegedly collected the money in person and lodged it with the Abuja Branch of the All States Trust Bank Plc (now defunct).
The witness added that the bank manager, allegedly acting on Dariye’s instructions, paid N100m in the name of the “PDP South-West”, adding that the money was later traced to a company – Marine Float Nigeria Limited – allegedly owned by a former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.
Under cross-examination by the defence counsel on Tuesday, the witness confirmed that the decision by the EFCC to investigate Dariye for alleged money laundering was informed by information provided by the London Metropolitan Police.
He said the case was still pending in London.
Earlier on Tuesday before he was cross-examined by Pwul, Musa, while, concluding his testimony, which he started on Monday, said investigation had revealed that an unregistered firm, Ebenezer Ritnan Venture Limited, linked to Dariye, was a beneficiary of the alleged fraud and that the money paid to it was later moved to a London bank.
The witness said facts gathered by the EFCC was later sent to the Metropolitan Police, a development which he said prompted Dariye’s arrest by the Metropolitan Police.
He said Dariye was later granted bail in London but managed to escape to Nigeria.
The witness said, “From our investigation in Nigeria and documents tendered clearly showed that the defendant was arrested by the Metropolitan Police in London, granted bail, jumped bail and escaped to Nigeria.
“We also saw a Diamond Bank draft of N204m, drawn from the Plateau State Accountant General’s account, but paid into Ebenezer Ritnan’s account.
“The instructions for the payment were given by the Accountant General, Sham Damisa; Nuhu Ali Madaki, Deputy Director, Treasury; and Silas Bum-But, Deputy Director, Inspectorate.
“In the course of investigation, we invited these people to prove to the commission what job was executed by Ebenezer Ritnan to have warranted the payment. But they could not show that any job was done for the state and for which the state paid the money.
“For failing to provide reasons for this payment, they were charged to court. They are currently on trial before this court.
“In the course of the investigation, the defendant was invited to make a statement, which he did at the Asokoro office of the EFCC.”
The prosecution had indicated, in its proof of evidence, that the current Chairman of the EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, might testify in the case.
Magu is listed as one of the 33 witnesses slated to give testimony in the case by the prosecution.
He led the five-man team of EFCC detectives that investigated the case.
Musa, who identified some bank drafts allegedly used in moving funds from the Plateau State Accountant General’s account with Lion bank, said, “All these drafts were traced to All States Trust Bank and were all raised in the name of Plateau State, but paid into Ebenezer Ritnan’s account. In the course of investigation, we found that there was no contract between the state and Ebenezer Ritnan Venture.
“From investigation, we further found that the defendant (Dariye) was the account holder. We discovered some property, which the defendant used part of the money to purchase.
“We applied for an interim forfeiture order to confiscate the property.”
Justice Banjoko admitted Dariye’s three statements, made in 2007 in evidence, as exhibits P13 (a), (b) & (c).
The judge adjourned till February 2 for continuation of trial.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government on Tuesday said corrupt elements in the country were waging a dirty war against its anti-graft fight.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who said this at a press conference in Abuja, explained why the government could not release the list of treasury looters now.
He also blamed a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), and others involved in the alleged $2.1bn arms scandal for the prolonged war against Boko Haram.
Explaining why names of treasury looters had not been released, he said, “I want to make it clear that by the time we make the list public, it will jeopardise the investigations we are doing now. It will jeopardise the process of recovery (of funds) if it is made public.”
‘‘Recall that in the so-called, $2.1bn, meant for the fight against Boko Haram, was diverted to other uses, including over N4bn for spiritual purposes; N13bn for Maritime University land; N2.1bn for publicity and hundreds of millions of naira for political patronage.
“That explains why we lost many soldiers to the fight against Boko Haram, which in turn created many widows and orphans, in addition to pushing millions of Nigerians from their communities into Internally Displaced Persons’ camps. This explains why the war dragged on for years until President (Muhammadu) Buhari assumed office and, within just seven months, strengthened the capacity of the military to decimate Boko Haram.”
He added, “What has so far been revealed, as per Dasukigate, is about N54.8bn, whereas, in the entire 2015, all the zonal intervention acts, which are 17,217 projects, cost N52bn.”
The minister, who said the recovery of the funds was still ongoing, stressed that the list “is not full and final.”
He, however, said the government would not be distracted by attacks on it because of its commitment to fight corruption.
Mohammed stated, “Corruption is already fighting back, and it is fighting hard and dirty. Sponsored articles have started appearing in the newspapers and in the electronic media while ‘Talking Heads’ have started making the rounds in the electronic media, all deriding the fight against corruption as well as this administration.”
He said the anti-corruption attackers had tagged Buhari a budding dictator and even wrote off the 2016 budget.
The minister added, “It is saddening that some otherwise credible voices have unwittingly allowed themselves to be railroaded into the bandwagon of pro-corruption orchestra. They engage sophistry to try to rally Nigerians against the anti-corruption battle. One hack (writer) even said the disclosure that 55 Nigerians allegedly stole N1.34tn between 2006 and 2013 did not trigger any anger among Nigerians!”
Mohammed stated that one of those who benefitted from the Dasukigate had the temerity to deride the anti-corruption war as ‘selective’ when in saner climes, he should have been so ashamed of himself that he would have apologised to the nation.
He added that he was confident that Nigerians were discerning enough to know the truth which, “in the words of President Muhammadu Buhari, is that unless Nigeria kills corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.”
Explaining the negative effect of corruption on Nigeria, the information minister said, “Whereas Nigeria’s national budget has increased from just over N900bn in 1999 to over N6tn in 2016, poverty has also increased almost by the same proportion. The reason is not far-fetched: appropriated funds have mostly ended up in the pockets of a few looters.
“When the money meant to construct roads is looted, the end result is that the roads are not built and the people suffer and even die in avoidable road accidents.
“When the money meant to provide electricity is looted, we all are perpetually sentenced to darkness. When the money meant for health care is pocketed by a few, we are unable to reduce maternal and infant mortality. These are the costs of corruption.”
He also responded to the criticism that the government was dwelling too much on the war against corruption to the detriment of other areas of governance.
Mohammed added, “Our response to that is that indeed, there is nothing like dwelling too much on this war. The situation is very grim indeed, as far as corruption is concerned. That is why we will not relent in prosecuting this war until we have decimated the monster of corruption just like we did to Boko Haram and Ebola.
“The truth is that what we have revealed so far is nothing but the tip of the iceberg. Nigerians should stay tuned for more shocking revelations in the days ahead.”