On Tuesday, October 4, the Lagos State government appointed a convicted credit card fraudster and fugitive to head its Safety Commission.
If approved by the House of Assembly, Hakeem Dickson, a former Internal Auditor at the now defunct Nigeria Airways, will resume as the Director General of the Lagos State Safety Commission despite fleeing from a 24-month jail term in the U.S.
“For 20 years, Defendant successfully evaded all United States government efforts to locate and arrest him,” Judge Dickinson Debevoise stated in his judgment made public by Sahara Reporters.
“He has not served the 24 months sentence lawfully imposed upon him in June 1992.”
PREMIUM TIMES reached out to the Lagos State government through Steve Ayorinde, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, to know if the administration was aware of Mr. Dickson’s antecedents before his appointment. Repeated phone calls were not answered and a text message sent since last week was yet to be replied to.
Efforts were made to reach Mr. Dickson but he did not respond to phone calls. A visit to the address listed for his company -1 Mayor Hakeem Olaogun Dickson Drive, Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1 – showed that only Hakeem Dickson Road exists in the area, and there’s no building on Number One Hakeem Dickson Road.
“Even us, we have been looking for this Number One since we came here,” a business owner at Number Two Hakeem Dickson Road said.
The building just before Number Three on the street is a residential home. A domestic servant in the compound told PREMIUM TIMES their address is Number Two Hakeem Dickson Road.
Guilty of fraud
On June 14, 1991, Mr. Dickson, also a U.S. citizen, was arrested on a complaint of bank and credit card fraud.
Four months later, he pleaded guilty to Count One of a four-count indictment which charged that from August 29, 1990, to September 10, 1990, he “knowingly and willfully executed and attempted to execute” a scheme to defraud a federally insured institution in violation of U.S. laws.
On June 25, 1992, Mr. Dickson was sentenced to 24-month jail term, to be followed by a term of supervised release of three years.
He was also ordered to repay $14,400.
The judge fixed August 3, 1992 for his voluntary surrender, despite opposition from the U.S. government, the plaintiff in the suit.
“The government had urged at sentencing that Defendant be remanded forthwith or at least surrender to the Bureau of Prisons no later than the following Monday, June 29, 1992,” the judge said.
“The court noted that while on bail Defendant returned on three occasions after being given permission to leave the country.
“The Court also took account of Defendant’s wish to spend more time with his one-year-old son, who suffered severe medical problems. Thus the August 3, 1992, surrender date.”
But on August 3, 1992, Mr. Dickson was nowhere to be found in the U.S., forcing the judge to revoke his bail and issue a warrant for his arrest.
Twenty years later, on January 27, 2012, Mr. Dickson, filed a motion seeking to adjust his sentence of 24 months incarceration in the U.S. by claiming that he had already served 17 months on the same sentence in a Lagos prison.
In his motion, Mr. Dickson claimed that a series of events after his sentencing, preceded by violent clashes between Muslims and Christians in Lagos, forced him to disobey the August 3 surrender date.
“During these clashes, two of Defendant’s sisters were killed and the family home was burned to the ground,” the judge quoted Mr. Dickson as claiming, in his judgment dated May 12, 2012.
“Following his sentencing Defendant returned to Lagos to bury his sisters, assess the damage to his father’s house and to take his mother for treatment.
“When Defendant arrived in Lagos, he was arrested at the airport and was told that since he was convicted in the United States he would also serve time in Nigeria. He was retained in custody until December 10, 1993, a total of 17 months.”
Following his claim of release from Kirikiri Prison in 1993, Mr. Dickson immersed himself in public office, contesting and winning an election as Chairman of Surulere Local Government between 1998 and 2004.
He later served as Special Adviser to then Minister of Works, Oluseye Ogunseye, for four years, before being appointed Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Mr. Dickson also served as a committee chairman of All Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) for the drafting of laws, regulations and punishments for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission.
He is currently the CEO of Citiwide Construction and Transport Nigeria Limited which specializes in the construction of roads and buildings.
“Considering the nature of Defendant’s criminal activities in the United States, these are remarkable posts for Defendant to have held,” Judge Debevoise noted.
“Defendant now owns a factory which manufacture concrete blocks, paving stones and kerbs, employing 20 people.
“It is on the basis of these facts that Defendant seeks to credit the 17 months he served in Nigeria against the 24 months sentence imposed in the United States on June 25, 1992.
“Although Defendant’s request has a certain common sense appeal, he has found no basis for it in the law.”
The judge said Mr. Dickson made no request for leave before departing the U.S. in 1992, adding that the American government informed the court in September of that year that the convict had failed to surrender as ordered, and attempts to locate him were unsuccessful.
“The Court entered an Order revoking Defendant’s bail and issuing a warrant for his arrest,” said Mr. Debevoise.
“For the next 20 years Defendant successfully evaded all government efforts to locate and arrest him.
“The newly filed January 27, 2012 motion purports to fill the void. Defendant spent 17 months of the period in prison because of his United States conviction, and then went on to lead a successful political and business life.”
Section 18 of the US Constitution 3585(b) under which Mr. Dickson seeks credit for the 17 months he spent in prison in Nigeria, provides:
‘Credit for prior custody. A defendant shall be given credit toward the service of a term of imprisonment for any time he has spent in official detention prior to the date the sentence commences –
‘(1) as a result of the offense for which the sentence was imposed; or
‘(2) as a result of any other charge for which the defendant was arrested after the commission of the offense for which the sentence was imposed; that has not been credited against another sentence.’
“There is a serious question whether Defendant comes within the plain meaning of this provision,” the judge said.
“It is doubtful whether the 17 months imprisonment was ‘a result of the [scheme to defraud a federally insured institution] for which the [June 25, 1992] sentence was imposed’ or ‘as a result of any other charge for which [Defendant] was arrested after the commission of the offense for which the [June 25, 1992 sentence] was imposed.'”
The judge further noted that the authority to grant Mr. Dickson’s requests rests solely with the Attorney General, acting through the Bureau of Prisons.
“For 20 years, Defendant successfully evaded all United States government efforts to locate and arrest him,” Mr. Debevoise said.
“He has not served the 24 months sentence lawfully imposed upon him in June 1992. The law forbids granting the relief he seeks, and the equities of the situation point to no other outcome.
“The motion will be denied. The court will file an order consistent with the foregoing.”