EFCC has described as “shocking and unacceptable”, the ruling by Justice Bello Abbas of the Sokoto State High Court which on 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 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.