Arraignment of Bauchi governor-elect, Bala Mohammed, stalled

Bauchi State governor-elect, Bala Mohammed.
Bauchi State governor-elect, Bala Mohammed.

The scheduled arraignment of the Bauchi State Governor-elect, Bala Mohammed, before the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court was on Monday, stalled, due to the absence of the judge, Yusuf Halilu.

According to the court registrar, the judge, Mr Halilu, was absent due to an engagement at the election tribunal in Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State.

Mr Mohammed, who was in court, was to be arraigned on Monday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on fresh six counts charges. The charges are bordering on alleged failure to declare his assets and giving of false information.

He has since been seen at the ongoing Nigerian Governors Forum taking place at the Banquet hall, State House, Abuja.

Mr Mohammed, a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), was declared the winner of the recent Bauchi State governorship election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He defeated the incumbent governor of the state, Mohammed Abubakar, of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

This was revealed in the information sent by the court registrar to the EFCC Director of Legal Services and Prosecution, Chile Okoroma, on Sunday.

A source in the commission highlighted that Mr Mohammed, popularly known as Kaura, ‘will be arraigned on six counts bordering on false declaration of assets and giving false information to the EFCC.

“There are some properties he bought which he did not disclose to the EFCC that were discovered. The details will be unveiled when the charges will be read to him. A renowned legal practitioner and the EFCC counsel, Wahab Shittu, has been assigned to prosecute Bala Mohammed, before a new judge,” the source said.

Count five of the charges to be read to the accused reads, “That you, Bala A. Mohammed, on or about October 24, 2016 at the head office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Abuja, within the judicial division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, made a false statement to the detective, Ishaya Dauda, investigating officer with the Economic Governance Section of the EFCC, Abuja to wit:

“That you acquired house situate at No. 2599 and 2600, Cadastral Zone AO4 Asokoro District Abuja through a mortgage facility from Aso Savings & Loan Bank Plc and you thereby committed an offense contrary to Section 09 (2) (a) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act 2004 and punishable under Section 39(2)(b) of the same Act.”

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The accused had in a recent interview with Saturday Punch in Bauchi, vowed that he would probe his predecessor, adding that his trial by the EFCC was politically-motivated.

He said, “It is completely politically-motivated but I believe in justice and that was why I went to the court of justice. Because of the evidence that we have, he is going to be thoroughly probed because I have not been spared by the federal government.

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“I have been under probe by the EFCC and because I believe in accountability and was influential in the government of President Goodluck Jonathan, I chose not to run away.

“I will stand and answer all questions. I have passed the first battle by winning my case against the federal government on human rights, for arbitrarily imprisoning me and then calling me names. Of course, N5m has been awarded in my favour and the next one is the other spurious charges against me. I believe in justice and equity.”

Speaking with journalists, the prosecution counsel, Mr Shittu said, “EFCC is an anti-corruption agency, it does not play politics. It exists to serve the public.

“It is a matter that is been ongoing before another judge who has now been elevated.

“The expectation is that the matter will soon be reassigned to another judge.

“Just a week ago, the registry of this court sent us a notice that today has been fixed for the re-arraignment of the defendant. It was not at the instance of the court.

“You know when a case is transferred to another court, it starts de Novo.

“Nobody should see what is happening now as an attempt by the EFCC to intimidate anyone. Let us focus on the matter before the court. EFCC exists to serve everybody,” Mr Shittu said.

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