Court resumes Dasuki’s aide trial, as EFCC retracts false publication
JUSTICE Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, resumed the trial of Dasuki’s aide, Col Nicholas Ashinze after the falsified publication by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) was retracted.
Ashinze is standing trial with Wolfgang Reinl, an Austrian, Edidiong Idiong and Sagir Mohammed, on a 13-count charge bordering on money laundering.
Other defendants in the case are five companies – Geonel Integrated Services Limited, Unity Continental Nigeria Limited, Helpline Organisation, Vibrant Resource Limited and Sologic Integrated Service Limited.
The judge had on March 21 ordered the EFCC to retract an offensive press statement issued by EFCC which was published in Vanguard Newspaper.
The statement referred to Col Ashinze as a retired officer and that he was never charged by EFCC for any offence on diversion and misappropriation of a whopping sum of N36 billion.
Kolawole had also ordered that the Deputy Registrar, Litigation, of the court to liaise with the Deputy Sheriff to ensure that the March 21 order was served on the Editor-in-Chief or the appropriate person in Vanguard Newspaper.
He said the relevant officer of the newspaper must come before the court on May 4 to show where it (newspaper) got the March 8 publication on the N36.8 billion fraud charge against the defendant.
At the resumed hearing, the prosecuting counsel, Ofem Uket, informed the court that the said statement which was misreported had been retracted and published on ThisDay Newspaper dated April 12.
The prosecution also told the court that he has in his possession a certified true copy of the retracted newspaper report and has given the defence counsel a copy of the report.
Ernest Nwoye, Afam Osigwe and Chukwudili Anozie, counsel to Reinl, Idiong and Mohammed (1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants), however, objected to the admissibility of the retracted report.
In their objection, they stated that the EFCC did not follow the order of the court in retracting the statement, rather they apologised which was against the order of the court.
In the midst of the objection, counsel to Mohammed, Mr O Jimoh, opposed the argument of his co-defence counsels on the admissibility of the retracted publication, stating that justice had already been done.
He, however, cited a paragraph on the retracted publication which read: “the error in figure was a mix-up in the body of the release as the headline reflected the correct information.
“The reference to Ashinze as retired is regretted. We have since discovered that he is a serving Colonel in the Nigerian Army.”
Counsel to Vanguard Newspaper, Mr F Chude, who was present in court, apologised on behalf of the Newspaper over the invalidity of the report on Col Ashinze.
Chude informed the court that the Editor-in- chief of Vanguard was not aware of the court summon but was unable to come with the reporter, who covered the court proceedings.
The judicial correspondent of vanguard, Mr Ikechukwu Nnochiri apologised to the court for the misleading report, stating that it was predicated on press release from the EFCC.
Justice Kolawole in a short ruling said that he was satisfied with the retraction made by the EFCC in respect to the March 21 order.
The judge also held that court is satisfied with the explanation and apology by Mr Nnochiri and he is hereby “discharge and acquitted and the order of the court to summon him is hereby revoked.’’
An EFCC investigator Hassan Seidu, who is a witness in the ongoing trial, continued his testimony on how the defendants got N5.6 billion from Office of National Security Adviser (ONSA).
Seidu said in the course of their investigation, the EFCC requested from Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) a certified true copy of registration of six companies which was sent and forwarded through the executive chairman of EFCC.
The defence team opposed to the admissibility of the document, stating they are not reliable after the prosecution prayed the court to admit the documents in evidence.
In their argument, the defence said there is no evidence of payment of the prescribed fees as approved by the Minister of Trade.
More so, that the said document has no name and certified signature, hence, the document failed to meet the provision of Section 379 sub.1 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) of 2015.
The counsel, however, urged the court to take judicial notice as no prove of payment was made in relations to the documents and asked the court to “consign the document to the dustbin.’’
The prosecution while addressing the court withdrew the document and promised he will do the needful in certifying the documents.
The judge adjourned the matter until June 12, 20, July 5 and 11 for further hearing.