The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned former Defense Minister and former Acting chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Haliru Mohammed for criminal conspiracy to convert N300 million state funds.
Haliru, and his son, Bello Mohammed alongside Bam Projects ltd were arraigned before Justice Ramat Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja to which they pleaded not guilty.
The accused persons were earlier scheduled for arraignment on Thursday, December 30, 2015 but were absent due to the ill health condition of Haliru Mohammed, who was still recuperating from a surgery operation
However, at the resumption of their arraignment, the former PDP chairman who was wheeled into the court on a wheel chair, having pleaded not guilty to the charges when read to him, sought bail from the court.
Pursuant to Section 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Sections 35 and 36 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 as amended, counsel to Bello Mohammed (1st defendant and son of the former PDP chair), prayed the court to grant him bail pending the hearing and determination of the suit initiated against him.
In an application supported by six exhibits, which included an order made Justice Okeke of a Federal Capital territory High Court in Abuja, which had earlier granted bail to him, in a matter of fundamental rights instituted against the complainant (EFCC), Ogala Osoka, counsel to Bello urged the court to grant him bail on liberal terms, having been granted bail by another court and an administrative bail by the complainant.
Similarly, the ex PDP chairman, Haliru pursuant to Section 162 and 165(1) of the Administration of Crminal Justice Act (ACJA), Sections 35 and 36 (5) and (6) of the 1999 constitution, prayed the court to grant him bail on health grounds and on self-recognition and in the alternative, on liberal terms.
Citing Suleiman Vs Commissioner of Police, reported in 2008, All Federation Weekly Law Reports parts 425 at page 1621, particularly 1629-1631, counsel to Haliru, Abdulazeez Ibrahim in his submission, noted that for the court to consider his bail, it must also consider his appearance and availability to stand trial, as he is still recuperating from a surgery.
Aliu Yusuf, counsel to the EFCC in opposing the bail application referred the court to Section 162 of the ACJA and argued that there are conditions in which the court must consider in granting bail, which includes the severity of the evidence amongst others as stated by various authorities of the appeal court.
He cited a decision of the appellate court in Abiola Vs Federal republic of Nigeria, reported in 1995, 1 Nigerian weekly Law Rerport part 370 page 155, and Yusuf averred that the applicants (Haliru and Bello Mohammed), never deposed to any affidavit which says their ailments cannot be taken care off in prison custody.
He prayed the court to deny the accused persons bail and invoke Section 19 (2b) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Act 2004 for accelerated hearing.
The trial judge, Justice Mohammed, having listened to the submission of both parties in the matter reserved the bail application for ruling on Thursday, January 7, 2016.
While Bello Mohammed is to be remanded in Kuje Prisons, Haliru Mohammed is to be returned back to the hospital and placed under the supervision of the Inspector General of Police (IGP), while the court registrar was ordered to put the IGP on notice of this immediately.
Amongst the charge against them, the accused persons were alleged to have taken possession of the sum of N300million paid into the account of Bam project and properties LTD with Sterling Bank Plc in March 17, 2015 from the account of the NSA with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
That the accused persons converted the said sum, purporting same to be for “Safe Houses”, but which they claimed to have received for political campaign to wit: criminal breach of trust and corruption, an offence contrary to Section 15(2)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
It will be recalled that Haliru Mohammed who was removed on June 22, 2012 as the Minister of Defense during a period of escalating security problems in the north, was named in 2007 by German investigators as one of several Nigerian officials who received bribes from that country’s telecoms company, Siemens.
In its October 4, 2007 ruling against Siemen AG, the Munich State Court named him as one of the recipients of seventy seven hefty bribes paid by Siemen officials in three countries- Nigeria, Russia and Libya.
The court said as minister, he received 550,000 euros in kickback in July 2002 and another 150,000 euros in August 2003.
The German court named several prominent Nigerians, including Mohammed, in a bribery scandal involving the communications firm in which, Mohammed was alleged to have collected €70,000 in two installments, a charge he denied.