N304.1million Fraud: Ex-NIMASA DG Not Willing To Negotiate Plea Bargain With EFCC

A former acting Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Haruna Jauro on Tuesday told a Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos that he is no longer interested in negotiating a plea bargain arrangement with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Jauro, Dr Dauda Bistrus Bawa and a Limited liability company, Thlumbau  Enterprises Limited are facing a a nineteen counts charge bothering on conspiracy illegal conversion of N304.1 million brought by the EFCC on April 12, 2016

They all pleaded not guilty to the charges and they were granted bail by the court in the sum of N5 million each with two sureties each in like sum.

However, after the commission called three witnesses, Jauro and others approached the EFCC for a plea bargain arrangement.

Justice Mojisola Olatoregun thereafter adjourned the case to enable the two parties meet and agree on the terms of the plea bargain arrangement.

But when the case came up for hearing on yesterday, counsel to the accused persons, Olalekan Ojo informed the court that negotiation on the plea bargain arrangement has broken down.

Ojo also told the court that the lead counsel to the defendants, Babajide Koku had already written to the EFCC informing it of their clients decision to opt out of the negotiation.

The EFCC counsel Anana Nkeruwem confirmed the development and urged the court to grant leave for the continuation of trial, stating that his remaining witnesses were in court.

Although the court gave its nod to the request, the trial was, however, stalled, due to the demand of the defence that the witness called by the anti-graft agency, Orji Chukwuma can not testify until his extrajudicial statement is served on it.

This demand threw the EFCC counsel, Nkeruwem into confusion as he was not sure if Chukwuma’s statement was front loaded or not.

An angry Justice Olatoregun was forced to stand down the matter to allow the prosecutor confirm from his superiors the situation of the case.

When the case was later called, Nkeruwem apologised to the court for his lack of knowledge of the case and urged the court for an adjournment to enable him file and serve the statement of the witness on the defence.

Justice Olatoregun in a short ruling berated the lawyer for his lack of professionalism and wondered aloud how such an incompetent person could be handed such a sensitive case.

She noted that from her checks the commission has front loaded all the necessary information and statements needed by the defence but since the court can not conduct the case on behalf of the EFCC, she will adjourn the case to allow the lawyer do his case the way he wants to do it.

She therefore adjourned the case till January 10 for continuation of trial.

It will be recalled that Jauro assumed leadership of NIMASA, after an erstwhile Director General of the agency,  Patrick Apkobolokemi, who is also being prosecuted alongside others for alleged multi billion naira fraud.

The EFCC accused Jauro and others of conspiring among themselves to defraud NIMASA to the tune of N304.1m between January 2014 and September 2015.

The anti-graft agency alleged that the accused converted the sum to their own.

The prosecution told the court that the offence contravened the provisions of section 15(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012.

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