A Sokoto State High Court has discharged and acquitted a former Sokoto governor, Attahiru Bafarawa, of corruption charges.
The charges were filed against the ex-governor and four others by the anti-graft agency, EFCC. All the accused were freed by the judge.
The ruling of Justice Bello Abbas was contained in a statement by the EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren.
Mr Uwujaren said the EFCC described the ruling as “shocking and unacceptable.”
Read the full EFCC statement below.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has described as “shocking and unacceptable”, the ruling by Justice Bello Abbas of the Sokoto State High Court which today July 31 discharged and acquitted a former governor of Sokoto State Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa and four others of a 22 count charge of conspiracy, criminal misappropriation, theft and receiving of stolen funds.
Others acquitted alongside Mr Bafarawa are Beedash Nigeria Limited, Nasdabap Nigeria Limited, Alhaji Nasiru Dalhatu Bafarawa and Alhaji Salihu Maibuhu Gummi
In the course of the trial, EFCC had called nine witnesses and presented several documents that were admitted in evidence while the defendants called only six witnesses. Surprisingly, Justice Abbas discharged and acquitted the accused persons of all counts on the premise that the evidence presented by the prosecution were “mere hearsay”, that there were “no documentary evidence” to back up the claim of witnesses.
The commission believes that the judge erred in law and has mandated its counsel to immediately appeal the ruling at the Court of Appeal.
The judgment of Justice Abbas is the climax in the series of twists and turns that the trial had witnessed over the last nine years or so.
The defendants alongside twelve others were first arraigned on 47 counts on December 16, 2009 before the Sokoto State High Court.
Upon arraignment, they all pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them by the Commission.
Soon after their arraignment, the defendants filed a motion asking the court to quash the charges against them. The said motion was dismissed by both the trial court and the court of appeal.
On the 29th of September, 2011, the prosecution filed an amended 44 count charge against the accused persons.
However while the case was on going, one of the accused, Abdullahi Bida died while another, Aisha Mohammed Binji was discharged following a nolle prosequi application filed by the then Attorney General of Sokoto State.
Even more shocking was the wholesale pardon of five of the defendants by the current governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal. Those pardoned by Mr Tambuwal are Tukur Alkali, who is the Commissioner for Animal Health and Fisheries Development; Commissioner for Home Affairs, Isa Achida; the Chairman, Governing Board, National Commission for Colleges of Education, Maigari Dingyadi; the member representing Isa constituency at the House of Assembly, Habibu Modachi; and a Permanent Secretary, Isah Bello.
On December 16, 2017, the prosecution closed its case against the defendants who, through their counsel, filed an application for no-case submission which was subsequently dismissed by the court on the 31st of January 2018.
Justice Abbas, had on May 8, reserved July 4, for judgment.
However, when the case came up, counsel to the two parties was informed that the judge was out of the state on an official assignment.
They subsequently agreed to return to court on July 31, for the judgment.