…HEDA says Transparency is Being Sacrificed on Altar of Politics A leading anti-corruption group, Human and Environment Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) has handed a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to either prosecute former Gombe State Governor, Mr Danjuma Goje or face court action and public protest. A Federal High Court sitting in Jos
…HEDA says Transparency is Being Sacrificed on Altar of Politics
A leading anti-corruption group, Human and Environment Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) has handed a 14-day ultimatum to the Federal Government to either prosecute former Gombe State Governor, Mr Danjuma Goje or face court action and public protest.
A Federal High Court sitting in Jos had on Friday thrown out the corruption case where Goje, now a Senator, is accused of fraud in a N25billion sleaze funds.
The office of the Attorney General of the Federation last Thursday had applied asking the court to halt the trial.
Goje was facing corruption charges initiated by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) before the trial was later withdrawn by the government amidst speculations involving a political deal.
In a statement signed by the organisation’s Chairman, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, the group said the action of the FG confirms suspicion that Goje’s trial has been waved aside because of his decision to step down as a contestant for the Senate President in deference to President Muhammadu Buhari and the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) leaders’ preferred choice, Senator Ahmad Lawan.
The group had earlier warned the office of the Attorney General of the Federation over its decision to take over the trial of Senator Goje for corruption charges as being likely to pervert the cause of justice, the Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA) had said.
The group in a statement on Wednesday June 12 said, “Many Nigerians have the reason to suspect that transparency is being sacrificed on the altar of politics and horse-trading in the interest of the election of principal officers of the National Assembly.”
Former Gombe State Governor who was accused of misuse of N25b had faced investigations by the EFCC for years.
However, a new twist was introduced when the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, Mr Abubakar Mallami was reported to have taken over the case from the EFCC.
When the case came up for emergency hearing before Justice Babatunde Quadri of the Federal High Court II in Jos, the EFCC’s counsel, Mr Wahab Shittu had said it was withdrawing from the case and handing it over to the office of the AGF, in response to the appearance of a counsel representing the AGF office.
According to HEDA, “There is grave concern the take-over of the trial of Goje who has been accused of fraud involving huge sums of public funds will undermine justice. The decision of the AGF to take over the case from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) is raising a lot of concern. There is no justification for this decision. The EFCC is doing a great job through diligent prosecution.”
“The sudden decision of the AGF to take over the case is suspicious. It sends wrong signals to local and international communities that vested political interests are bent on sabotaging the efforts of the EFCC and the entire gamut of anti-corruption campaign,” the statement signed by Mr Suraju had noted.
HEDA said this withdrawal has no justification except to confirm the rife speculations that the case was compromised to meet “political considerations” as in previous cases taken over by the AGF office.
The leading anti-corruption group said the AGF had set “bitter precedents” that the fight against corruption is selective depending on the political camp the suspected culprits belong.”The withdrawal is in bad taste and this group will deploy all the constitutional legal means to defend public interest in this particular case”.
“The international community would be notified of this subversion of rule of law and justice by the present regime. Bilateral laws and agreement between Nigeria and other foreign nations will be explored to expose both the government and the suspect. Constitutional provision on Nolle Prosqui is not to pervert justice but protect public interest”, said the organisation’s chairman.
In 2011, the EFCC had filed charges against Goje, who is currently the Senator representing Gombe central, alongside Mr Aliyu El-Nafaty, a former executive chairman of the state’s Universal Basic Education Board, for an alleged N25 billion fraud.
In June, the EFCC pulled out of the case 24 hours after Goje withdrew from the Senate presidency race to endorse Ahmad Lawan, candidate of the APC leadership who is now Senate President. This was shortly after a close-door meeting with President Buhari.
Pius Akutah, a counsel from the AGF’s office, applied to withdraw the charges against Goje on Friday.
“My Lord, we have an application having taken over the case and reviewed the 21 count charges of no submission and by the ruling of this court quashed 19 leaving only two count charges in which they are to enter defence,” he said.
“As it is, the Federal Ministry of Justice wishes to withdraw those two charges against the accused persons This action is in line with the power vested in the AGF by virtue of section 128 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 particularly subsection 1 of that section (128).”
“It’s in accordance with the power vested in the AGF by the constitution that we wish to withdraw the charges before your Lordship. This is our humble application and urge your Lordship to grant our application.”
Goje’s counsel, Mr Adeniyi Akintola did not oppose the application but asked the judge to acquit the former Governor of the charges.
“But we are urging your Lordship to evoke the provision of section 2(a)(b) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and acquit them of the charges,” Akintola said.
“The same section gives your Lordship the discretionary power to make an order for the accused persons to be discharged and acquitted. My Lord has the power under Section III.
“As we urge your Lordship to consider our humble application, we wish to thank you for your patience with us since 2011 when we started this journey on the case. We also wish to commend the AGF for (the) wise decision in bringing this case to an end.”
Delivering his ruling, Justice Quadri granted the application by the AGF to withdraw the charges.
“The accused persons are hereby discharged,” he said.
Photo: Senator Danjuma Goje
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