Trial-within-trial: What transpired in court on case between Shema, 3 others and EFCC today
I was coerced, begged to indict Ex-Gov. Shema, Witness Told Court
In the on-going trial of the former Governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Shehu Shema and three others, a former chairman of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria, ALGON, in the State, Mallam Lawal Ibrahim Dankaba, on Wednesday told the Katsina State High Court hearing the case that he was made an accomplice in the matter for refusing overtures made to him to implicate the former Governor of the State, Alhaji Shehu Shema for money laundering and fraud.
According to him, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had after extensive investigation told the Katsina State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ahmad Usman El-Marzuq at a meeting held at the EFCC office in Abuja by EFCC operatives consisting of Abubakar Buba, Abu Fari and one Mr Edward that the commission did not have a water-tight case sufficient to secure conviction if the former governor was taken on trial.
“I was invited by EFCC on November 16, 2016. But what followed was a meeting. We were later asked to come to ISOS office of the commission for a meeting where I met the Hon.
Attorney General, (Ahmad) El-Marzuq and Rabe Nasir. They (State Government officials) demanded an update and Barrister Etuk (pointing) told them that EFCC has professionally done their investigation and they do not have enough evidence to prosecute the matter”, Dankaba told the court.
The defendants are Shehu Shema, Sani Hamisu Makana, Lawal Ahmad Safana and Ibrahim Lawal Dankaba. They are being accused of diverting local government allocations for their personal benefit.
However, the former LG boss in his evidence advance to quash three of the statements tendered against the accused persons said Rabe, who is now a Special Adviser to the Katsina State Governor, had interjected at the November 16, 2016 meeting that if EFCC didn’t have enough evidence, he had evidence and that he had posted some on the internet for the anti-graft agency to use against the accused persons.
Dankaba also said the AG at the meeting said it was enough evidence that: “there was a time he ( El-Marzuq) and the first defendant (Shema) could not afford choice cars but see how the man roams the street with lots of them now”, adding that that was “enough evidence to recover Katsina State monies from and that I should know the target and co-operate, so that they will not take me to court.”
The former LG chair alleged there was a concerted effort by the EFCC and the State Government to coerce and intimidate him to give evidence against the former State Governor which he resisted for which he was put in an underground cell at an EFCC facility between January 25 and February 16, 2016.
“After I was released, the EFCC operative apologised to me but I don’t think it has left my mind since that day”, he said.
Dankaba said these while giving evidence before Justice Bako Maikaita.
The former chairman of Kaita local government pointed to Mr U.T. Uket who was leading prosecution against him, the former governor and two others for alleged diversion of N11billion fraud of public funds as the man who told the State Attorney in the presence of others that the commission lacked of sufficient evidence to get a conviction against the former governor for the alleged financial crimes levelled against him.
To buttress the allegation of intimidation the ex-ALGON boss said his lawyer was equally forced out of the EFCC facility because they said “it is against their tradition for lawyers to be present when taking such statements. It happened on January 25th and October 31st when I went to EFCC with my lawyer, Barrister Aliyu Ahmed Yola”
Under cross-examination, he said the treasurer of ALGON, who served as the chairman of the body before him, Hussein Dabo, “might have been left out of prosecution” because as a co-signatory to him he ought to have been charged with him but “he probably co-operated”.
Dabo was chairman of ALGON between 2012 and 2014 while Dankaba took over between November 2014 till the end of the administration in May, 2015.
The lead counsel who took over from Hajiya SB Umar didn’t counter the allegation when he was cross-examining Dankaba.
Dankaba had objected to the acceptance of three separate statements credited to him by the EFCC as being obtained under duress.
“I didn’t volunteer these statements”, he said repeatedly, adding that they were dictated to him by EFCC operatives who insisted that he must write it as they wanted.
“Buba dictated to me what the answers should be. He would say that is not how I wanted you to write it”.
However, the lead counsel, U.J. Etuk, who was accused of cutting a deal with the State Government, accused the prosecution witness of discrediting the report he volunteered, adding that Dankaba was cautioned before being asked to volunteer his statements.
“There was no threat or intimidation, whatsoever”.
EFCC also objected to Barrister Yola’s choice as a witness in the “trial within trial” had defended the prosecution team all through the various stages of trial.
The trial judge adjourn on Thursday January 24th for the continuation of the “trial within trial” and to determine the propriety of Barrister Aliyu Yola as a prosecution witness.