30 January 2013

Nigeria: Trial of Bamanga Tukur's Son, Others for Fraud to Continue As Negotiations Stall

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Wednesday, told a Lagos High Court that its discussion with Mahmud Tukur, and other suspected subsidy thieves, has hit a brick wall.

Mr. Tukur, son of Bamanga Tukur, National Chairman of the Peoples' Democratic Party, alongside Abdullahi Alao and Alex Ochonogor are facing a nine-count charge of fuel subsidy fraud amounting to N1.2 billion.

Tayo Olukotun, who represented the EFCC, told the judge that he was informed by the commission's lead lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs, that their discussion with the suspects has "met a brick wall."

At the court's last sitting, last December, Adeniyi Onigbanjo adjourned to enable Messrs Tukur and Ochonogor finalize their "out of court settlement" with the anti graft commission.

The negotiation had stalled trial, twice, as both parties said that they were yet to come to a conclusion.

Reacting to the EFCC's position, Tayo Oyetibo, counsel to the two defendants, said that he was kept in the dark about the development.

"If Mr. Jacobs said that (discussion has met a brick wall), courtesy demands that he informs me," Mr. Oyetibo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said.

"I wasn't talking with a brick wall when I was discussing with him. We are not afraid of trial. Certainly," Mr. Oyetibo added.

Mr. Onigbanjo fixed trial for May 6 and 7.

Travel leave

Mr. Onigbanjo also granted Mr. Alao, son of billionaire businessman Arisekola Alao, leave to travel abroad.

Mr. Alao had prayed the court to direct the EFCC to release his international passport so he could travel to the United States to see his ailing son.

The EFCC said it would not oppose the request provided the defendant returns to the country within 30 days.

Before granting his request, Mr. Onigbanjo directed that the defendant's cases in other courts be verified to ensure that he doesn't have other matters within that time frame.

Mr. Alao is also facing a N2.6 billion subsidy fraud matter before Justice Habeeb Abiru.

He is also appearing, over another subsidy fraud, before Justice Lateefat Okunnu on a six-count charge of conspiracy and fraudulently receiving N1.1 billion.

"After a careful examination, the EFCC is hereby directed to immediately release the passport of the defendant to enable him travel to the US," Mr. Onigbanjo said.

"He must return to the country on or before 24th February and should return the passport within 48 hours to the custody of the EFCC," he added.

Last year, the judge ordered the release of the international passports of Messrs Tukur and Ochonogor to they could attend business meetings in the U.K. and France.

The duo returned their passports to the EFCC custody, last week.

Mr. Oyetibo said that he would file another application requesting the court to allow Mr. Tukur "report to South Africa."

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