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Arms deal: Counsel’s absence stalls trial of ex-Chief of Air Staff

Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja on Thursday, slated January 25, 2017, to commence the trial of a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Mohammed Diko Umar, docked by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly diverting about N4.8 billion belonging to the Nigerian Air Force (NAF) to purchase property for himself.
At the resumed hearing of the matter, Benjamin Manji, who stood in for the prosecution informed the court that the prosecution was not ready to open its case against the accused because the substantive counsel, Sylvanus Tahir, handling the matter was indisposed.
Manji also told the court that the witness, the prosecution intends to call traveled to Ibadan and prayed the court for an adjournment.
Counsel to the accused person, Hassan Liman did not object to the request for adjournment, saying that the prosecution had earlier informed him of the development.
On the agreement of counsel, Justice Nyako adjourned the matter till January 25, 2017 to commence trial.
Diko had pleaded not guilty to the seven-count charge bothering on diversion of funds slammed against him by the EFCC.
In the charge, Diko was alleged to have, while being the Chief of Air Staff between September 2010 and 2012 converted the United State dollar equivalent of the aggregate sum of N4,864,630,000 removed from the account of NAF.
The offence was said to be contrary to Section 15(2) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act. Diko was also alleged to have used the sum of N700,000,000 removed from NAF account to purchase a property at No 14, Vistula Close, off Panama Street, Maitama.
In addition, Diko was also accused of using another N860,000,000 re-moved from the account of NAF to buy a property at Plot No. 1853 Deng Xiao Ping Street, off Mahathir Mohammed Street, Asokoro Extension, Abuja.
Diko was also accused of taking N500,000,000 from the account of NAF to purchase for himself a four-bedroom duplex with boys’ quarters at Road 3b, Street 2, Mabushi Ministers Hill, Abuja. In count 5, Diko was accused of removing N250,000,000 from the account of NAF to buy himself a property at No 14, Audu Bako way GRA, Kano.
In count 6, Diko was charged with removing N160,000,000 from the account of NAF to purchase and renovate a property at No 8, Kabala Road, Unguwan Rimi, GRA, Kaduna. Diko was, in count 7, accused of transferring the sum of N66,000,000 into the Stanbic IBTC Account No: 9202077424 belonging to Capital Law Office from NAF operations account domiciled at UBA Plc for the renovation/improvement of House No. 1853, Deng Xiao Ping Street, off Mahathir Mohammed street, Asokoro extension.
The offences were said to be contrary to Section 15(2) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act. The Federal Government listed about 21 witnesses to testify in the case.
Justice Nyako admitted the accused person to bail on self-recognition, but however ordered him to deposit his international passport with the registry of the court.