Armsgate: Falana, others call for day-to-day trial of suspects

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Radical human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, has called on the Federal Government to ensure that all those named in connection with funds released from the office of the former National Security Adviser, Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd) should not escape justice.

Falana said this in a statement yesterday, a copy of which was sent to our reporter. The statement said,  ‘the federal government should ensure that all individuals and corporate bodies indicted in the criminal diversion of public funds are made to face the full wrath of the law.

“The anti- graft agencies should disregard the cheap blackmail, speed up the investigation and charge all indicted suspects to court while the courts are enjoined to conduct the trial of the suspects under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (2015) which requires that the trials be conducted day by day”.

He said further that the federal government should open a dedicated account to warehouse the recovered loot with a view to using the fund to provide equipment for the armed forces, create jobs for our army of unemployed graduates  and fix our dilapidated public schools, hospital and roads.

His words: “In  the light of the earth-shaking and ear-aching revelations oozing out of the EFCC to the effect that a handful of individuals cornered and shared the huge fund earmarked for the procurement of military hardware to prosecute the war on terror all the convicted military officers and soldiers who have been convicted including the 70 who were sentenced to death should be released forthwith.  As I have repeatedly maintained the soldiers were committed and sentenced to death for asking for weapons to fight the terrorists. They were ordered to fight with unserviceable equipment on the ground that there was no money to purchase new weapons. In the process, the well-equipped insurgents routed and massacre thousands of the country’s ill-equipped soldiers due to the diversion of the fund set aside to purchase equipment. The suspects must bear full responsibility for committing such grave crimes against humanity”, Falana said.

Speaking on the legal implications of using the NSA’s office as a conduit pipe for slush funds, Dame Carol Ajie said “we have offices that deals with accounts and finances under the 1999 constitution. The cases against the suspects have not been fully tried but they have to respond to allegations”.

She said that if the court finds that they are guilty, then they should go to jail.  “If they are not guilty, the court should pass other verdicts. The accused persons however also have human rights to defend themselves or plead guilty and plea for mercy”.
Carol said that public office holders must be held to account and transparency.
A Lagos-based human rights lawyer Gabriel Ojumah in a telephone interview yesterday said that whoever illegally and criminally stole public money must bear consequences, no matter how highly placed.

“The society must be sanitized. There is no politics about it”, he added.
The former National Security Adviser  is expected to be arraigned before an FCT High Court in thenext few days along with Salisu Shuaibu, a former Director of Finance at the NSA’s office.
Others who are allegedly facing joint trial with the former NSA are Aminu Baba-Kusa, a former Group Executive Director of NNPC; Acacia Holdings Ltd, and Reliance Referral Hospital Ltd.

In a separate 22 counts, the federal government (FG) also charged former governor of Sokoto State Attahiru Bafarawa, his son Attahiru Sagir, former minister of national planning Bashir Yuguda and Dalhatu Investment Ltd with alleged diversion of over N10 billion meant for arms.

Dasuki and other accused persons were alleged to have diverted the funds being government property domiciled with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) by converting them to United States dollars and the Euro on November 27, 2014.

However, details of the charges were still unclear as at press time. Dasuki was first arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja on a five counts charge of unlawful possession of firearms and money laundering which is contrary to Sections 27(1) (a) (i) of the Firearms Act, CAP F28 LFN, 2004 and 15 (2) (d) of Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 respectively.

Also, the Chief Judge of the FCT High Court, Justice Ishaq Bello has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to arraign Salisu Shuaibu, a former Director of Finance at the NSA’s office without further delay or in the alternative release him on bail.
Founder of Daar Communications Plc, Chief Raymond Aleogho Dokpesi was ordered to be remanded in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) pending the determination of his bail application tomorrow.

Dokpesi who is the owner of the African Independent Television (AIT) and Raypower Radio was docked at the federal high court in Abuja by the federal government which brought a criminal charge of N2.1bn money laundering crime against him.
He denied the 6-count criminal charges which also involved breach of public trust and procurement fraud. Dokpesi had been in the custody of the anti graft agency in the past 10 days facing interrogation from operatives of the EFCC on the huge sums he allegedly collected in the office of the former National Security Adviser (NSA).

Apart from Dokpesi, another media mogul that has been invited in connection with the arms gate is the Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Thisday newspaper, Nduka Obaigbena. Obaigbena said that Dasuki, paid him N670 million as compensation for attacks on his newspaper’s offices in Abuja and Kaduna in 2012. He said he also received compensation for the illegal seizure of newspapers by men of the armed forces.

He has denied to have ever received any suspicious funds from the office of the NSA adding that all funds he received were “payment for compensation to mitigate” terror attacks on the head office of his newspaper in Abuja and another attack on the newspaper’s office in Kaduna.

Also, a former Chairman, Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Security, retired Air Vice Marshal Saliu Atawodi has denied any link with the controversial $2.1 billion arms purchase deal under which Dasuki is being detained by the EFCC.
The former air chief claimed that he has never worked under Dasuki in the office of NSA and as such has nothing to do with the huge sum allegedly mismanaged.

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