By Kelechi Ogunleye
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court on Wednesday in Abuja frowned at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly publishing false information on Senator Shehu Sani, who is standing trial in court.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the EFCC had, on Jan. 27, arraigned the former lawmaker, who was arrested in December 2019 for allegedly “collecting 25,000 dollars″ in the name of the EFCC acting chairman, Ibrahim Magu.
Sani is facing trial on two counts of bribery and advanced fee fraud by the EFCC.
The EFCC on Feb. 25 published a news story on its official twitter handle ‘@officialEFCC’ with the headline ‘EFCC presents witnesses Against Shehu Sani Over Alleged $10m Fraud’.
Sani’s Counsel, Mr Abdul Ibrahim brought the attention of the court to a publication by the EFCC on their verified official twitter handle, @officialEFCC on Feb.25, indicating that Sani was before the court in respect to a $10 million fraud rather than 25,000 dollars.
“The story they put out there for the public is that he was charged for $10m which is not true,” he said.
The defence counsel, tendered a print out copy of the publication before the court as evidence.
EFCC Counsel, Mr Abba Mohammed,said that he was not aware of the publication and the news came to him as a shock.
“I view this as an attempt to instigate the court against the prosecution.
“It is just a print out of a purported EFCC handle and anybody can do it,” he said.
Justice Ekwo immediately cautioned the prosecutor saying ‘Anybody can do anything when they are allowed to do so’.
The Judge further warned parties to observe and comment on happenings in court only as there should be no commentary on the substance of the court.
“Parties should trust that the will of law in this matter will be achieved.
“I don’t want to be put in a position of being distracted from doing my duty.
“The records of court are public documents that can be applied for so this should not happen again,” he said.
Earlier, the EFCC presented it’s third and fourth witnesses in the trial of former Sani.
The third Prosecution Witness (PW3), Mr Remi Jones, said he had worked with Zenith Bank as a compliance officer for over four years and was requested on Jan.13 by the prosecution to present the bank details of one Mr Ahmed Abubakar.
Jones said some of the documents requested for were Abubakar’s account opening package, statement of account opening.
“I requested for the account opening package from the domicile branch, I got a copy, I certified it, printed the statement of account, I compared the breakdown with what is stored on the system, I found it to be correct and also certified it.
“ I also attached the certificate of identification, stating the conditions and our response was sent back to the EFCC,” he said.
The anti-graft counsel, Mohammed, tendered the retrieved documents before the court as Exhibit.
PW3 further said that based on the account statement of Abubakar,on Nov.20,2019 there was an inflow of N5 million from ASD Motors Nigeria Limited account domicile to Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB).
During cross examination, Defence Counsel, Abdul Ibrahim asked PW3 if the defendant was the beneficiary.
Jones responded that he wasn’t aware of who the beneficiary was but it wasn’t Shehu Sani according to the account statement placed before him.
The fourth Prosecution witness (PW4), Mr Abubakar Ahmed, a Bureau de Change operator, said that on Nov.19, 2019, Mohammed Sani, Son of Dauda Sani informed him that his dad needed him to do a transaction with him.
“On Nov.20,2019, Dauda Sani called me that he wanted to change dollar equivalent to N5 million.
“Dauda Sani brought a GTB cheque to me in his worth 13,930 dollars.
“I gave my staff the cheque to go to the bank to do a transfer from GTB to my personal zenith bank account because the cheque was of GTB and I received the alert,” he said.
PW4 said he didn’t see the defendant at Sani’s house and had never met him in person but had seen him only in news.
Prosecution counsel said he had listed 14 (fourteen) witnesses in the case and had presented 4 (four) before the court.
Justice Ekwo adjourned until May 4, May 5 and May 6 for continuation of trial.