Ex-Accountant General’s missing statement stalls trial in alleged N109bn fraud
The trial of former Accountant General of the Federation (AGF), Ahmed Idris on alleged N109 billion corruption charges was on Wednesday stalled at the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) over the disappearance of one of the statements he made to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) during investigations.
The statement dated July 5, 2022, could not be located by EFCC in its own file, that of the High Court as well as that of the defence team.
At Wednesday’s proceedings, the anti-graft agency through its counsel, Mr Oluwaleke Atolagbe had kick-started the trial within trial, following the denial by the ex-Accountant General that some of the statements he made to EFCC in respect of the N109 billion alleged fraud were made voluntary.
Idris, who was re-arraigned last October had persistently alleged that the key statements proposed by the EFCC to be used against him in the alleged corruption charges were made under duress.
Following the allegation, Justice Halilu Yusuf ordered a trial within trial to authenticate the claim. Although the EFCC had presented its witness, Mr Hayatudeen Suleiman for examination on 13 different statements obtained from Idris, trouble however arose when it was discovered that a statement dated July 5, 2022, and said to be vital to the trial could not be found in the bundles of documents uploaded to the court by EFCC.
Trouble worsened when EFCC seeking to examine the witness on the disputed statement could not find the statement in its own case file.
A Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chris Uche leading the legal team of the former Accountant General also told the court that the statement was not part of those supplied to him by EFCC.
Uche said the anti-graft agency for reasons best known to it, had suppressed some documents and that the missing statement of the defendant may be one of the suppressed documents.
“We came fully prepared for this case to be substantially dealt with but unfortunately, EFCC appears to be dragging us back by not putting its house in order. If it were a civil matter, I would have asked for a cost of N5 million for our precious time wasted by the prosecution”.
Efforts by Justice Halilu Yusuf to salvage the situation were unsuccessful as the statement could also not be found in the court’s record. At this point, the EFCC lawyer who insisted that the statement is vital to his case, applied to Justice Yusuf to grant him an adjournment to enable him search for the missing statement and serve on the defendant as required by law.
After consultations among lawyers Justice Yusuf fixed May 11, for the continuation of trial within trial. The court made it clear that the adjournment was at the instance of the EFCC. EFCC had on October 27, 2022, re-arraigned Idris on a 13-count charge bordering on alleged misappropriation of the sum of N109 billion.
Others arraigned alongside are Olusegun Akindele, Mohammed Usman and Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Limited. They were first arraigned on July 22, 2022, before a vacation judge, Adeyemi Ajayi.
The EFCC alleged that between February and December 2021 Idris accepted from Akindele, a gratification of N15. 1 billion, which sum was a motive for accelerating the payment of 13 per cent derivation to the nine oil-producing states in the Federation, through the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.
The anti-graft agency also alleged that N84. 3bn from the Federal Government’s account was converted by the first and second defendants between February and November. 2021. The EFCC said the offence contravened sections 155 and 315 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990.