30th June, 2011
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Thursday ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to produce the proof of evidence in the on-going trial of seven accused persons alleged to have defrauded the Pension Office of the Head of Service of the Federation of Nigeria of about N12 billion.
The presiding judge, Justice Adamu Bello, gave the order, when counsel to Mrs. Phina Chidi, the second accused person, Mr. Chris Uche, a senior advocate of Nigeria, told the court that he has an application that will facilitate the trial of the accused persons.
According to the lawyer, the application is seeking for an order directing the anti-graft agency to furnish the accused persons with the proof of evidence.
Counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Godwin Obla, did not oppose the application, though he noted that it is not the practice to avail the accused persons with the proof of evidence, he however accepted to oblige the accused persons with the proof of evidence, but also indicated that in so doing he has the right to produce further and additional materials.
Furthermore, Mr. Obla, said that they have employed the service of forensic expert who has re-calculated the amount involved in the scam and as such that the EFCC is going to amend the amount contained in the charge to about 30% without interfering with the substance of the charge.
Justice Bello, granted the application ordering the anti-graft agency to produce the proof of evidence and gave a nod to the EFCC to produce additional material that could assist the court, and consequently adjourned the matter till July 27 for fresh re-arraignment of the accused persons.
At the last sitting, the accused persons who are standing trial on a 134-count charge for their alleged involvement in the scam pleaded not guilty to all the counts of the charge. The suspects are Sani Teidi Shuaibu, former director, pension administration in the Office of the Head of the Civil Service of the Federation; Phina Ukamaka Chidi, former deputy director (Finance and Accounts), and Aliyu Bello, a personal assistant to Mr Shuaibu.
The other accused persons are Garba Abdullahi Tahir, Mohammed Katun Ahmed, Emmanuel Olanipekun, Abdullahi Omeiza and companies purportedly used in siphoning the funds.
ByÂ Nnamdi Felix / Abuja