8 July 2015

Nigeria: Alleged N15 Billion Fraud - Court Orders Nyako, Son Remanded in EFCC Custody

Photo: Deutsche Welle
Former governor of Adamawa Murtala Nyako.

Justice Evoh Chukwu of the Federal High Court, sitting in Abuja, on Wednesday ruled that a former Governor of Adamawa State, Murtala Nyako, and his son, Abdulaziz, should be remanded in the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission till Friday when applications for their bail would be heard.

In making the order, the judge overruled the argument of the defence counsel who wanted his clients remanded in prison.

Mr. Nyako, his son and two others, are standing trial over a 37-count charge bordering on corruption and money laundering.

The EFCC arraigned the suspects on Wednesday after rearresting them on Tuesday.

When the charges were read to them, they pleaded not guilty.

The EFCC is prosecuting the governor and the three other suspects over allegations of stealing, abuse of office and money laundering.

The anti-graft agency had interrogated them over alleged illicit funds traced to companies in which they have interest.

Specifically, they were asked to explain how over N15 billion belonging to Adamawa State was allegedly laundered into the accounts of five companies traced to them.

The companies are Blue Opal Nigeria Limited, Crust Energy Nigeria Limited, Blue Ribbon Multilinks Limited, Tower Assets Management Limited and Blue Ribbon Bureau De Change.

The funds were allegedly funnelled into the accounts of the five companies, from Adamawa state government bank accounts. The transfer was done by the account officer who incidentally is the manager of the bank and an in-law to former Governor Nyako.

The EFCC said the manager claimed he transferred the funds based on verbal instructions from the former governor for purposes that were not stated.

The commission said its investigations revealed that from 2007 to 2011, the then Governor Nyako directed that all state-owned accounts domiciled in various banks be transferred to the account supervised by his in-law.

Abdul-Aziz Nyako's company, Blue Opal, is said to own, among other investments in Nigeria, an estate in Abuja, while his father's account officer owns several properties and investments scattered around Abuja, Yola and Kano.

Below is our live updates of the court proceedings.

UDATE 1: Former Governor Nyako and his senator son, Abdul-aziz, have been brought into the premises of the Federal High Court, Abuja. The EFCC is to arraign them before Justice Evoh Chukwu

UPDATE 2: Former Imo Governor, Ikedi Ohakim, is still being expected here. There are suggestions he might be arraigned before Justice Kolawole. No sight of him yet.

UPDATE 3: Meanwhile, an official of the legal unit of the EFCC says former Governor Sule Lamido and his two sons might be arraigned in Kano on Thursday. They were initially billed for arraignment Wednesday, but the official said there has been some logistical hitches

UPDATE 4: Judge arrives at 1. 31 pm, says he has a short ruling to deliver before calling Nyako and son's case.

UPDATE 5: Court clerk asks accused persons: ex governor and his son, if they understand English to which they all answered yes!

UPDATE 6: Mr. Nyako is dressed in an all white agbada and black cap while his son is also on a white agbada with gold embroidery and a cap.

The court clerk reads out the charges, up to count 7 and still counting and accused present pleaded not guilty. The charges border on money laundering.

Mr. Nyako's son is in the dock, beaming with smiles while hearing the charges and pleading not guilty.

UPDATE 7: The suspects are accused of converting huge sums of money, including N240 million - state funds - to develop an estate, Hill View estate in Mpape, Abuja, between October 2011 and June 2012 among others.

Crime punishable under Section 15 subsection 1A of the money laundering prohibition Act, 2011. They all pleaded not guilty to count 15 and still counting.

UPDATE 8: The courtroom is full with security officials - mobile police officers. Some are sitting on a chair outside the courtroom.

The accused pleaded not guilty to count 21. More charges are being read to them.

Counsel to the accused, Mr. Kanu interjects at count 21, he prayed the judge to please allow chairs for the accused who had been standing for about an hour.

The accused - four of them, two in front and two others behind - on the dock sit, with the ex governor folding his arms, keeping a long face, unlike his son who has been all smiles.

The court clerk continues to count 22, 23 and 24 ... . still counting. They kept pleading not guilty to the charges.

UPDATE 9: Court clerk requests a break after reading count 32 for his assistant - a light skinned lady - to take over.

The judge at first refused, asking if the clerk is not being paid his salary, but later allows him to take a rest.

Asked how many more charges were left, the clerk replies, "five more charges, my Lord. "

The lady clerk takes over, continues from count 33.

All accused persons have so far pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

UPDATE 10: The clerk ends at count 37, with accused pleading not guilty to all count charges.

The counsel to the EFCC calls its witness who goes to the witness dock but was asked to go back to his seat after the defence counsel said they were not ready for the commencement of the case.

The counsel for the accused also said they were just served an application Wednesday afternoon.

The defence counsel prayed the court to grant the accused bail as all the prisons across Nigeria are congested. He also suggested that instead of remanding them in prison, they should be left in the custody of the EFCC which he said appears to be better.

However, the counsel for the accused said that might not be possible as the EFCC does not have accommodation.

He said the accused - all of them - were kept in an office from Tuesday till Wednesday when they were brought before the court.

UPDATE 11: The court ruled that the accused be remanded in EFCC custody. He said bail application would be heard on Friday, July 10.

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