N11.2bn Fraud: Why I won’t send ex-Gov Ibrahim Shema to prison for now–Court

Ibrahim Shema

  • As Shema attacks charge, says it is incompetent

A Katsina State High Court on Tuesday rejected an invitation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to send the immediate past Governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema, to prison.

Shema is standing trial before the state high court over alleged conspiracy and stealing of N11.2billion public fund.

He was docked on Tuesday but his plea was not taken because he is challenging the competence of the charge against him.

His counsel and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Joseph Bodunrin Daudu (SAN) is contending that the state high court does not have the jurisdiction to try Shema.

When it was clear to the EFCC that the trial in the case could not start immediately, it made an oral application to the trial court to revoke the administrative bail granted the former governor and issue an order keeping him in prison pending when he would be arraigned.

EFCC argued that the governor was already showing sign that he might not appear in court for his trial.

But Daudu objected saying the EFCC was putting its cart before its horse.

He said until the issue of jurisdiction was resolved, the request of EFCC was premature.

The trial court agreed with Daudu and Shema was allowed to go home free on the strength of his running administrative bail.

Bar and Bench Watch reports that the Federal Government through its agency–EFCC, had charged the former Governor of Katsina State, Barrister Ibrahim Shehu Shema and three others before a Katsina State High Court over alleged conspiracy and stealing of N11.2billion public fund.

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The charge followed an exchange of allegations between the former governor and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which later declared the governor wanted on September 15, this year over N76billion fraud.

The three others charged with the former governor were Alhaji Sani Hamisu Makana, Alhaji Lawal Rufa’i and Alhaji Ibrahim Lawal Dankaba.

The fund in issue, according to a statement signed by Senior Special Adviser to the Governor on Media, Malam Abdu Labaran Malumfashi belonged to the 34 local government councils in the state.

Bar and Bench Watch reports that Alhaji Ibrahim Lawal Dankaba was former chairman of Kaita Local Government Council and Chairman of the Katsina State chapter of the  Association of Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON); Alhaji Sani Hamisu Makana was the immediate past commissioner of the Ministry of Local Government and Chieftaincy Affairs while Alhaji Lawal Rufa’i Safana was the Permanent Secretary of the same ministry.

They were said to have conspired with one another while holding their different public offices to steal the monies totalling N11.2bn.

Their offences were neatly packaged into a 22-count charge, now lodged at the registry of the Katsina Stat High Court.

The analysis of the charge indicated that the politically exposed persons were accused of conspiracy in count one, breach of trust and details of how they allegedly converted the sum of N11,255,043,920 public fund into personal monies in counts two through eight, forgery of minutes of meeting in counts 9 and 10.

Also, in counts eleven, they were accused of abatement of forgery while counts twelve through twenty two contained details of how they used the forged documents as genuine to allegedly perpetrate the crime.

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Bar and Bench Watch recalls that sometimes in September, this year, EFCC had declared the embattled governor wanted over N76 billion fraud.

But the ex-governor of Katsina State, Alhaji Ibrahim Shema, had lambasted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for declaring him wanted over an alleged N76bn fraud in the media.

Shema wondered why the anti-graft agency decided to declare him wanted after honouring its invitation earlier.

The ex-governor had said this in a letter addressed to the acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, on Thursday.

According to him, on getting to the Abuja office of the EFCC, he was informed by the anti-graft agency that the detective in charge of his case was not in town and that the EFCC failed to reschedule.

He said, “Without any formal invitation to me, the EFCC purported, by a letter dated June 17, 2016, sent to a wrong address of Wole Olanipekun & Co. asking the law firm to make Dr. Ibrahim Shehu Shema available for an interview with the undersigned on Tuesday, June 28, 2016. The letter was signed by Hyecinth A. Edozie.

“Despite the incongruity in the way and manner the invitation was extended to me through a counsel – and also through a wrong address of the same counsel, and notwithstanding the fact that I was already billed to travel to Saudi Arabia for the lesser hajj (Umrah) on the appointment day, I cancelled all the engagements to honour the invitation with my counsel on the said June 28, 2016, only to be informed, around 10am on that day, that the interview would no longer hold, as Mr. Hyecinth A. Edozie was out of Abuja, and that a new date, after Sallah, would be communicated.”

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Shema said his lawyer wrote a letter to the EFCC on June 28, 2016 addressed to Edozie and copied the acting chairman of the EFCC.

The letter was delivered, received, stamped and duly acknowledged at the EFCC office on the same day June 28, 2016.

“To date, the EFCC has not responded to the said letter, suggesting any date,” he said.

The former governor said he was therefore shocked to read in the newspapers on September 15 that he had been declared wanted by the EFCC.

He said, “As a senior citizen of this country, a legal practitioner of 32 years post-call experience, and a two-time Governor of Katsina State, I not only feel seriously embarrassed, disturbed, surprised and confounded by the report sponsored by EFCC, but also feel sorry for our dear country.

“I feel sorry for the pitiable situation we have found ourselves as Nigerians where and when a sacred institution like the EFCC is pressurised and used to sponsor fake, false, malicious, misleading and unfounded allegations against someone like me, who the EFCC has not at any time accused of fraud, embezzlement, inflation of contract, or any misdemeanour at all.

“The EFCC deliberately embarked on false propaganda against me and my person by positing that I have ignored several invitations which it extended to me.”