Fraud: Why Appeal Court must upturn the acquittal of Zamfara ex-governor, three others—ICPC

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The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has requested the Court of Appeal sitting in Sokoto to reverse the judgment of a Zamfara State High Court which acquitted former governor Ahmed Rufai Sani of the criminal charge of diversion of public funds.

The ICPC which filed the appeal is contending that the judgment is against the weight of evidence before it.

Justice Bello Mohammed Tukur had ruled against ICPC in a no-case submission entered by Sani on the ground that the ex-governor was not a ‘public officer’ while in office.

Others standing trial with Sani are Hashim Dikko, Development Management Limited and Had Nigeria Limited.

Justice Tukur who discharged all the defendants ruled: “It is a natural consequence of the finding that the 1st defendant (Ahmed Rufai Sani) is not a public officer.

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“Not being a public officer, the 1st defendant could not be said or found to have used the public office status that is not available to him to confer any advantage upon another.”

The ICPC also appealed against the ruling on the ground that the trial judge did not limit himself to the evidence laid before him by the prosecution.

The Judge said: “Considering the position of the 1st defendant as the governor of Zamfara State at the material time in a civilian government that of necessity must operate an open door policy, it is not out of place for a governor to meet with people intending to do genuine business and to hold tentative or exploratory discussions.

“To dismiss or condemn such meetings or discussions as illegal or unlawful would in the view of this court unduly hinder the ability of a governor of state to effectively administer a government…”

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The commission had filed a 19-count charge against Sani and the other defendants over alleged diversion of N464,820,189.24 out of N1billion loan allocated for the repair of the collapsed Gusau Dam to other services contrary to S 22 (5) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.

The section states: “Any public officer who transfers or spends any sum allocated for a particular project, or service, on any other project, or service, shall be guilty of an offence under this Act”.

ICPC is therefore asking the Court of Appeal sitting in Sokoto to set aside the ruling and order the defendants to start their defence of the case before another judge of the High Court of Zamfara State.