THE Federal Government incurred a cost of over N150m on the probe and prosecution of a former Governor of Gombe State, Danjuma Goje, which was mysteriously dropped by the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government, The PUNCH has learnt.
Impeccable sources told one our correspondents that over N100m was already spent on legal fees alone while over N50m was spent on investigation, logistics, transportation, hotel accommodation of witnesses and other related expenses before the case was dropped.
The investigation and prosecution of the case spanned eight years from 2011 to 2019 even as 25 witnesses were called while 150 exhibits had been tendered in court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The witnesses called by the EFCC included officials of the Central Bank of Nigeria, the Universal Basic Education Commission, officials of the Gombe State Ministry of Education, executives of Zenith Bank and Access Bank and operatives of the EFCC.
An impeccable source at the EFCC told The PUNCH that the management of the commission was still in shock over the decision of the Buhari-led government to withdraw the charges filed against the former governor.
The EFCC source said, “We started this Goje case during the tenure of EFCC Chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri, in 2011. We even celebrated the case in our monthly EFCC Magazine, Zero Tolerance, wherein we boasted that the matter would not be compromised.
“The Attorney-General of the Federation at the time, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), also gave us maximum support. We received many offers of bribe at the time and even up until recently but we turned them down in the spirit of patriotism.
“It is unfortunate that a government which claims to be fighting corruption could withdraw the charges filed against Goje because he agreed to step down for Senator Ahmed Lawan.”
When asked to give full details of the work and funds that went into the case, the operative who seemed very upset, said over N150m was spent on the trial.
He noted that the case, which began in the Federal High Court, Gombe, was moved to Jos for security concerns.
The EFCC official added, “The case began in Gombe but for security concerns, it was moved to Jos, where the EFCC has no office. Anytime we had a hearing, we would move at least seven of our men to Jos along with policemen.
“We would pay for transportation, accommodation, feeding and other miscellaneous expenses.
“We presented 25 witnesses from CBN, UBEC, Gombe government, Zenith Bank, Access Bank and the EFCC and we had to pay for their accommodation, feeding, transportation and other expenses.
“Sincerely, we could not have spent less than N150m on the investigation and prosecution in the last eight years. I am 100 per cent sure of this.”
The source said apart from undermining the morale of the EFCC, the decision of the Buhari government to withdraw the case could also affect the witnesses and the psyche of Nigerians.
He added, “Many people put a lot at risk especially when testifying against Goje. For example, the Assistant Director, Finance and Account, UBEC, Adamu Mohammed Misau, tendered several documents to prove our case while testifying in court
“In November 2015, another witness, Shehu Atiku, a former Clerk of the Gombe State House of Assembly, told the court that Goje forged the resolution of the House and collected N5bn facility from Access Bank.
“On that day the court had to cut short the proceeding and adjourn for further hearing owing to the fracas that ensued as suspected political thugs invaded the court premises and disrupted the proceedings, vandalising vehicles and injuring people. How would such witnesses, who risked their lives, feel?”
Justice Babatunde Quadri, who heard the case for eight years, was also transferred from Jos to Port Harcourt, to Abuja and then Maiduguri where he is now serving.
“Each time Justice Quadri flies to hear the case he would pay for transportation, security, accommodation, feeding and other expenses,” the source noted.
Goje, alongside four other accused persons were facing prosecution by the EFCC on charges of conspiracy, money laundering and embezzlement of funds belonging to the state government.
He was accused of diverting N5bn from the government’s treasury under the guise of contracts for the supply of dictionaries and food.
On March 22, 2019, the court ruled that he had a case to answer and should proceed with his defence.
Goje, who was running for President of the Senate subsequently met with President Buhari and was advised to step down for Senator Lawan who eventually became Senate President.
The case was mysteriously taken over from the EFCC by the AGF and subsequently dropped, sparking outrage from a cross-section of Nigerians.
Recall that the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and Lawan had led Goje to meet President Buhari at the Presidential Villa on June 6, 2019.
Sources said it was at this meeting the deal was struck to drop the charges in exchange for Goje’s support for the Lawan Senate Presidency.
When contacted on the phone for comment, the Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof. Itse Sagay (SAN), said he could not speak on the matter because he did not know why the case was dropped.
Sagay said, “I’m not aware of the reason because my answer must depend on the reason. I’m going to find out. Let’s put it this way: if there is a good case against him, then it is withdrawn, it’s not justified.
“One really needs to know the reason; I don’t want to start condemning him without finding out why. But if there’s a good case and that case is withdrawn for political reasons, I cannot support it.
“That’s all I can say, but there may be a justifiable reason which I don’t know yet. So, I’m not going to condemn (the Federal Government) yet without enough knowledge of the circumstances.” – Punch
– July 10, 2019 @ 12:29 GMT |