Alleged N24bn police pension fraud: Witness’ ill-health stalls continuation of ex-director, others’ trial
The continuation trial of a former director the Police Pension Office, Atiku Abubakar Kigo and five others for police pension fraud before the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) was today stalled due to the ill-health of the prosecution witness.
Kigo, Ahmed Inuwa Wada, Mrs Veronica Ulonma Onyegbula, Sani Habila Zira, Mrs Uzoma Cyril Attanga and Christian Madubuke were re-arraigned on February 18, 2020, on an amended 18-count charge bordering on criminal breach of trust and fraud in the police pension scheme to the tune of N24 billion by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before Justice Husseini Baba-Yusuf, sitting at Maitama, Abuja.
They were first arraigned in the case, marked FCT/CR/64/2012, in 2013 on a 20-count charge bordering on conspiracy and criminal breach of trust.
The six defendants were re-arraigned by the anti-graft agency following the death of the first defendant in the case, Essar Dangabar, who died on July 24, 2019, in the course of the trial. They, however, pleaded not guilty.
At the resumed hearing of the case today, the prosecuting counsel, Oluwatosin Mese, who held the brief of Rotimi Jacobs SAN, informed the court that the fourth prosecution witness (PW4), Mustapha Sani Gadanya, was absent in court due to his sickness.
All the defendants and their counsels were present in court today for the day’s sitting meant for the judge to rule on the admissibility of the documents tendered through Gandaya by the prosecution at the last sitting and continuation of hearing.
Following the development, Justice Baba-Yusuf adjourned the case till March 16 – 17, 2021.
At the last sitting in the case on Wednesday, December 9, 2020, the PW4, Gandaya, a staff member of EcoBank Plc, testified against the third defendant, Veronica Onyegbula.
The witness presented bank account opening documents, account statements and Certificate of Identification on the documents from EcoBank, which were tendered in evidence by prosecuting counsel, Oluwaleke Atolagbe.
Counsel for Onyegbulam, Chuma Chukwudi, however, objected to the admissibility of the documents and the PW4’s testimony on the ground that he was not eligible to testify on the matter since the name and signature on the account opening documents he testified on did not belong to him.
He further argued that the documents were computer-generated, which could not be admitted by the court in line with Sections 83 and 84 of the Evidence Act.
Atolagbe, however, described the defence counsel’s argument as misconceived. Relying on Section 84 of the Evidence Act, he declared that computer-generated documents could be admitted by the court provided that such documents were accompanied by a written certificate of identification by the appropriate authority.
He added that such documents could be presented orally in court, without the physical presence of the person who printed them in court.
Following the argument and counter-argument, Justice Baba-Yusuf then adjourned till January 19 and 20, 2021 to rule on the matter.
YOU SHOULD NOT MISS THESE HEADLINES FROM NIGERIAN TRIBUNE
Rays of the afternoon sun pelted her head as she fanned the embers beneath the half-cut iron drum with the smoke permeating the air. “This smoke is unbearable, Iya Maria,” said one of the three neighbours conversing under a makeshift shed about five meters away. Their voices rose and fell intermittently…