- Court Admits Former FCT Minister, Bala Mohammed to N500m Bail
A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) sitting in Gudu district, Abuja on Friday admitted former Minister of the FCT, Senator Bala Mohammed to bail in the sum of N500m and two sureties in like sum.
Justice Abubakar Talba in granting him bail said one of the two sureties must be a senator, while the other, a Federal Director.
In addition, all the sureties must have landed property in the Federal Capital Territory with a Certificate of Occupancy as well as evidence of payment of tax in the last three years.
The judge also ordered that the applicant deposits his international passport with the registrar of the court.
Justice Talba who granted the bail application in his ruling asked both the prosecution and defence counsel to agree on the bail conditions.
This, the judge explained, was to strike a balance in the light of their different positions.
Justice Talba said; ‘It is trite that no matter the gravity of the offences, an accused person is assumed innocence until proven guilty under our laws. Bail is a constitutional right and the purpose is not to set an accused person free but to grant him liberty to enable him attend trial.
“Although the prosecution has urged the court to consider the gravity of the offence as well as issues raised in the counter affidavit. It is my view that such issues will be considered in the hearing of the substantive matter. I am satisfied that the applicant has placed sufficient materials to warrant court to exercise its discretion in his favour.
“Accordingly, his application is hereby granted. However, the terms of conditions for his bail should be negotiated between the prosecution and defence.
This is in order to strike a balance of the case because the prosecution had argued that if the court is mindful to grant bail, it should come with some stringent conditions while on the other hand, the defence counsel urged that the bail should be on self- recognition.”
After stating this, the court stood down for 30 minutes to allow the prosecution and defence counsel to agree on workable bail terms.
Justice Talba on resumption, adopted the bail conditions agreed upon by counsel as the ruling of the court.
He further adjourned trial to July 4, 2017. Bala Mohammed was arraigned on a six- count charge by the Federal government on allegations of receiving gratification when he was minister of the FCT.
He pleaded not guilty to the charges and his lawyer accordingly applied for his bail.
The court however, remanded him in prison custody pending the ruling on his bail application yesterday.
The former Minister who pleaded not guilty to all the charges described his trial as politically motivated.
In moving the bail application, Bala’s counsel, Chief Chris Uche SAN, urged the court to release his client on bail pending his trial.
The bail application was brought under section 35(1) & (4) and 36 (5) and (6) of the 1999 constitution and section 158, 162, 163 & 165 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015.
Uche, submitted that the alleged offences are bailable, adding that his client had earlier been arrested, detained and investigated by the EFCC in connection with the account of his tenure as minister of the FCT, in respect of unsubstantiated allegations of conspiracy, abuse of office and money laundering, and had been in its custody between October 24, 2016 and December 9, 2016.
He further told the court that a High Court of the FCT had in November 29, 2016 released the former Minister on bail and he was subsequently arraigned before this same court on five count charge, which was later withdrawn by the EFCC.
The defence counsel further submitted that his client had a good defence to the charge as he did not commit any offences charged or whatsoever, and he was prepared to stand trial and offer his defences to the allegations, which he strongly believe were politically motivated.
He disclosed that the former minister had a health condition with a long history of lung collapse and disorder and his health situation deteriorated while in custody of the EFCC.
He averred in his supporting affidavit that any further detention pending trial would worsen the already deteriorated health condition of Bala who is currently under observation of a United Kingdom Hospital.
In opposing the bail, the prosecution counsel, Ikani urged the court to refuse the bail application on the grounds that some of the paragraphs offend the provisions of section 115(1)(2) of the Evidence Act.
He further argued that if granted bail, the defendant may not be available to stand trial since some of the offences attract a prison term of five years.
Ikani further urged the court to refuse the application in view of the prevailing circumstances in the country.
In the alternative, he urged to court to attached stringent conditions to his bail.
In the six count charge filed by Aso Larry Peters, the defendant was alleged to have in 2014 did accept gratification of a house worth N550 million only situate at No 2599 and 2600 Cadastral zone AO4 Asokoro District, Abuja from Aso Savings and Loans Bank Plc as reward for performing his official duties and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(b) of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000 and punishable under the section 18(d) of the same act.
In count two, the defendant was alleged to have on October 24, 2016 in the course of filling his Assets Declaration Form at EFCC did knowingly fail to make full disclosure of his property No. 54, Mike Akhigbe Street, Jabi and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27(3)(a) of the EFCC Act 2004 and punishable under section 27(3)(c) of the same act.
In count three, Mohammed was alleged to have on October 24, 2016 in the course of filling his Assets Declaration Form at the EFCC office make a false declaration of his property known and situate at Agwan Sarki, Kaduna, Kaduna State as underdeveloped plot of land whereas it is a fully built house and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 27(3)(b) of the EFCC Act, 2004 and punishable under Section 27(3)(c) of the same Act.
In addition, in count four, Mohammed was alleged to have on October 24, 2016 in the course of filling his Assets Declaration Form before the EFCC did knowingly make a false declaration that a house known and situate at CITEC KWARA 5, A9 Street Mbora, Abuja FCT belonging to Abubakar Abdu Mohammed as his own asset and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27(3)(b) of the EFCC Act 2004 and punishable under Section 27(3)(c) of the same Act.
In count five, Mohammed was alleged to have on October 24, 2016 made a false statement to Detective Ishaya Dauda investigating officer with 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 mortgage facility from Aso Savings and Loan Bank, Plc and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 39(2)(a) of the EFCC Act 2004 and punishable under Section 39(2)(b) of the same Act.
In count six, Mohammed was alleged to have while being the minister of the FCT and Chairman, Board of Directors of Aso Savings and Loans Bank, plc use his office and position to confer corrupt and undue advantage upon his Associates by allocating four numbers fully detached duplexes and 11 numbers semi-detached duplexes valued at N314 million only through the Presidential Task force on sale of Government Houses to them and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 19 of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission Act 2000.
No Plans To Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Nigeria Or Any Part Of Africa- U.S. Replies Buhari
The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.
The US gave the response barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.
The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.
Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.
Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa States, and heavy waves of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.
Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.
“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.
“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.
“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”
However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.
According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.
In an emailed response to The PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.
This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.
“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters (AFRICOM HQ) to Africa is not part of any plans, but USAFRICOM’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago,” US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms. Cindi King, said.
King also ruled out any plan to consider Buhari’s request in an ongoing global US defence review.
She said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.
“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”
It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation –Campbell, ex-US ambassador
Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.
He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.
China Urges U.N. States Not to Attend Xinjiang Event Next Week
China has urged United Nations member states not to attend an event planned next week by Germany, the United States and Britain on the repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to a note seen by Reuters on Friday.
“It is a politically-motivated event,” China’s U.N. mission wrote in the note, dated Thursday. “We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.”
China charged that the organizers of the event, which also include several other European states along with Australia and Canada, use “human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China’s development.”
“They are obsessed with provoking confrontation with China,” the note said, adding that “the provocative event can only lead to more confrontation.”
The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Britain are due to address the virtual U.N. event on Wednesday, along with Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.
The aim of the event is to “discuss how the U.N. system, member states and civil society can support and advocate for the human rights of members of ethnic Turkic communities in Xinjiang,” according to an invitation.
Western states and rights groups have accused authorities in Xinjiang of detaining and torturing Uyghurs in camps, which the United States has described as genocide. In January, Washington banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor.
Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training centers to combat religious extremism.
“Beijing has been trying for years to bully governments into silence but that strategy has failed miserably, as more and states step forward to voice horror and revulsion at China’s crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” Human Rights Watch U.N. director Louis Charbonneau said on Friday.
Lawmakers Tensed Over Possible Boko Haram Attack On National Assembly
Lawmakers have been notified of a possible attack by Boko Haram insurgents on the National Assembly complex and other public buildings in Abuja, The media gathered.
Several members of the House of Representatives, on Wednesday, confirmed to Punch correspondent that they had been notified of the imminent attack by the terrorist group.
One of them, who is from a state in the South-West, said his presence would henceforth be limited on the premises.
“That is the security alert I saw today. I’m already moving out of here. I’ll only be around when there is a major reason to do so. Nowhere is safe in the country anymore,” he said.
Already the notice of the impending attack has been made available to the lawmakers.
The notice, a copy of which our correspondent obtained, was sent to the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila, other principal officers and all members of the House.
The ‘security alert’, dated May 4, 2021, was issued by the Chairman of the House Committee on Internal Security, National Assembly, Mr. Usman Shiddi.
It was titled ‘Re: planned insurgent attacks on VIP locations, government facilities and assets in Abuja.’
The alert read, “I refer to the above subject of which a copy of the intelligence report from the Force Intelligence Bureau of the Nigeria Police Force in the National Assembly Complex has been made available to my office.
“The report indicates planned insurgent attacks by some elements of Boko Haram on some VIP locations, government facilities and assets in Abuja, including the National Assembly complex.
“In view of the above intelligence, I have considered it paramount to advise that all members should, henceforth, use the presidential gate for ingress and egress.
“This is to avoid the unforeseen congestions that are sometimes encountered at the main gates since such congestions could easily be the targets for these insurgent elements.
“Security agencies are, however, actively on top of the issue to unravel and to contain the intended menace. Accept the assurances of my highest regards, please.”
Security has been beefed up in and around the complex since Thursday last week.
For the first time, security operatives on that day checked vehicles entering the premises, causing traffic congestion especially at the third (and last) gate, a process that has continued to date.
Before now, the security operatives were only after the identities of drivers and passengers to confirm that they were staff members, legislative aides, journalists, or persons working in private businesses in the complex.
The media correspondent observed that soldiers joined the regular sergeants-at-arms and men of the Nigeria Police Force, Department of State Services, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps and the Federal Road Safety Corps that manned the gates.
Recall that the Governor of Niger State, Sani Bello, had on April 26, 2021, raised the alarm over Boko Haram terrorists taking over a part of the state, hoisting their flag in Kaure village from where they had made incursions into more than 50 villages.
Bello said Abuja was not safe, with Boko Haram’s presence in Kaure – a two-hour journey from the Federal Capital Territory.
He said, “I am confirming that there are Boko Haram elements here in Niger State. Here in Kaure, I am confirming that they have hoisted their flags here.”
The same day, Gbajabiamila had met with the President, Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, in company with the Majority Leader, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa.
On the next day, the House held a long executive (closed-door) session to discuss the rising spate of insecurity across Nigeria, calling on Buhari to declare a state of emergency on security.
At the secret session that lasted over three hours, the lawmakers unanimously adopted a series of resolutions, one of which was that “the Federal Government should ensure the protection of national infrastructure and assets, particularly the Shiroro and Kainji Dams in Niger State.”
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