A High Court in Dutse on Tuesday acquitted former officials of the Jigawa State Government who served under the Sule Lamido administration.
The court, acting in an appellate role over a magistrate court action, discharged the officials because they were tried under an inappropriate law. It said the state government can resume their trial under the relevant law.
The discharged officials are Salisu Mahmuda, who is now the state chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP); Salisu Indirawa who was the commissioner for local government affairs; Nasiru Roni who was the commissioner for finance, and Abba Dagoro, the former state secretary of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON).
Others are Shehu Chamo and Muktar Gwanga, who were also officials of ALGON during the administration of Mr Lamido.
The state government had charged the accused persons at the magistrate on three counts bordering on criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust by public servant and public servant disobeying the direction of law with intent to cause public injury.
The alleged offences are punishable under sections 96, 123 and 315 of the Criminal Procedure Laws of Jigawa State.
But the counsel to the appellants, AG Wakil, argued that the sections of the penal code under which they were arraigned are only applicable to public servants under the federal, state and local governments. He said the accused persons are not public servants.
While delivering the judgement, the lead judge, Umar Maigari, struck out the first information report used for the trial of the appellants.
The three judges on the panel were Mr Maigari, Ahmed Gumel and Abubakar Sambo.
The judges discharged the first, second and third appellants.
However, Mr Maigari said the respondent is at liberty to continue with the prosecution in the relevant court and under relevant laws of the land.
“The decision of the trial court dated 20th, December 2018 in suit No CR/91/2017 is hereby set aside,” the judge ruled.
After the session, one of the respondent’s lawyers, Aliyu Hassan, said the respondent’s team would analyse the judgement and decide on the next step.
Jigawa State Government initially charged the accused persons at the magistrate court 2 in Dutse, on a three-count charge bordering on criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust by public servant and public servant disobeying the direction of the law with intent to cause public injury.
The charges were contrary and punishable under sections 96, 123 and 315 of the Criminal Procedure Laws of Jigawa State.
After they were arraigned before the magistrate court, they pleaded not guilty. Their lawyers asked for their bail. After arguments, the magistrate, Usman Lamin, sent them to jail pending the time to decide on the bail application.
He later granted them bail and the proper hearing continued at the magistrate court.
The accused lawyers objected to the trial when the magistrate court start receiving witnesses and addressed the accused persons as public servants.
The lawyers appealed to the state high court challenging the sections of the penal code upon which their clients were charged.
It was based on their appeal that Tuesday’s judgement was delivered.