Niyi Odebode, Fidelis Soriwei, Olalekan Adetayo and Ade Adesomoju
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has arrested a former Military Administrator of Kaduna State, Brig.-Gen. Jafaru Isah (retd.), in connection with the ongoing investigation into the $2.1bn arms procurement scam.
The Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, confirmed the arrest and detention of the former military governor to one of our correspondents in Abuja on the telephone on Thursday.
Isah, a close associate of President Muhammadu Buhari, was the governorship candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change in Kano State in 2011.
CPC was founded by Buhari to actualise his bid for the Presidency in the 2011 general elections.
The party asked a son of the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha, Mohammed, to step down for Isah in the party’s governorship contest.
Isah is the first chieftain of the ruling All Progressives Congress to be arrested by the EFCC since the Buhari administration started investigation into the $2.1bn arms procurement funds under the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
He was a member of the Ahmed Joda-led transition committee, constituted by Buhari to coordinate the handing over notes by the immediate past administration before the President was inaugurated on May 29, 2015.
The retired general is also believed to be close to a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.).
Confirming the arrest of Isah, the EFCC spokesman said, “It is true that the man is with us. That is the much I can tell you.”
The EFCC spokesman did not give details of the arrest.
It was, however, gathered that Isah was picked up by operatives of the commission in Abuja on Wednesday night and detained overnight to respond to issues linking him to the $2.1bn arms purchase fund.
It was learnt that the former MILAD’s arrest might not be unconnected with a “$5m gift” he allegedly received from the former NSA.
A top EFCC source, who confided in The PUNCH,said Isah was invited last week, but failed to honour the invitation of the anti-graft agency.
The source added that the commission had begun quizzing the former military administrator on the possibility that the money might have been given to him by Dasuki from the $2.1bn arms fund.
The source added that nothing had been established, saying Isah’s arrest was to “listen to his own side of the story.”
The source added, “He was invited last week, but he did not honour the EFCC’s invitation. He is being quizzed over the $5m he was alleged to have received from the former NSA. The former military administrator was arrested because he did not honour the invitation of the commission.”
The Chairman of EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, had said, during a meeting with online media managers on Wednesday, that more influential Nigerians would soon be arrested.
Magu had debunked the insinuations that the arrests made so far in the ongoing campaign against corruption were selective, targeting the Peoples Democratic Party leaders and leaving their counterparts in the ruling All Progressives Congress.
“Such accusations have come up a lot, but we work with petitions before us. In fact, I am eager and waiting for something from the other side, but nothing has come so far,” he was quoted as having said.
In a related development, a Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday granted bail to a former Chairman of the PDP, Haliru Bello, and his son, Abba Bello, in the sum of N300m each with two sureties in like sum.
Justice Ahmed Mohammed, in a ruling on the accused persons’ bail applications, also ordered that they should deposit their passports with the court pending the determination of their trial.
The EFCC on Tuesday arraigned Bello and his son, accusing them of collecting about N300m meant for the procurement of arms and using the funds for political campaigns.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the money was received from the Office of the National Security Adviser under Dasuki, under the guise of using it for “safe houses”.
Also charged along with them is their firm, Bam Project Properties.
The judge, in his ruling on Thursday, ordered Bello to remain under the the close watch of the Inspector-General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, at the Abuja Clinics, Maitama, where his injury, resulting from spinal surgery, was being treated, pending when he would meet the bail conditions.
But the court directed that Abba, who also complained of arthritis and asthma, be remanded in Kuje Prison pending when he would fulfil his own set of bail terms.
The judge also ruled that one of the sureties that Bello, who is the acting Chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees, should produce must be a director in the service of the Federal Government or any of its agencies.
He ruled that the other surety must own property in Abuja worth the N300m bail sum.
With respect to the son’s bail, Justice Mohammed ruled that one of his sureties must be a federal civil servant not less that Grade Level 12 and the other must also own property worth N300m in the Federal Capital Territory.
The judge ruled that the title documents of the property to be presented by the sureties would be verified by court officials and surrendered to the court throughout the period the trial would last.
He also directed that the sureties must submit their passport photographs to the court and also swear to separate affidavits of means disclosing their financial wherewithal.
Dismissing EFCC’s opposition to the accused persons’ bail applications on Thursday, Justice Mohammed said the commission had not denied that the offences the accused persons were charged with were bailable.
“In other words, there is nothing that suggests that the offences the defendants were charged attract capital punishment,” the judge noted.
He also dismissed the argument by EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Aliyu Yusuf, who had contended that the accused persons could interfere with further investigations into the alleged fraud if granted bail.
The judge noted that the EFCC, having deposed to an affidavit of completion of investigation, “there is no pending investigations the defendants can interfere with”.
He added, “The complainant (EFCC) has not shown that the defendants claim of ill health is false.”
He reasoned that the prosecution’s claim that the conditions of the accused persons could be treated at the prisons health facilities could not be grounds for denying them bail.
“In all, I’m satisfied that the defendants are entitled to bail,” the judge ruled.
Abba’s counsel, Mr. O. Osoko, and the lawyer for Bello, Mr. Abdulaziz Ibrahim, had argued that their clients were presumed innocent until pronounced guilty by the court.
The lawyers, relying on the provisions of Section 162 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, had urged the court to grant bail to their clients, considering their “special circumstances” of ill health.
The court, after delivering its ruling on Thursday, fixed February 16 for the commencement of trial.
In the charge FHC/ABJ/CR/389/2015, the accused persons allegedly received the sum of N300m from the office of the former National Security Adviser on March 17, 2015 for political campaign under the pretext that it was meant for “Safe Houses”.
The prosecution stated in the first count that the N300m collected by the accused was part of proceeds of Dasuki’s unlawful activities.
Dasuki and many others are already being prosecuted before two judges of the Federal Capital Territory High Court., Maitama, Abuja, in relation to the diversion of a total sum of N45bn meant for procurement of arms.
The prosecution alleged in the second count that the accused persons received the money under the guise that it was meant for “Safe Houses” but was actually released to them for political campaign.
Counts one and two are said to be offences contrary to Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
In count three, the accused persons allegedly concealed the money in their Sterling Bank Plc account when they “knew the said Doctor Aliru Bello and Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (retd.) to be engaged in a criminal conduct”.
The offence is said to be contrary to Section 17 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 17(b) of the same Act.
Meanwhile, the acting Chairman of the EFCC, Mr. Ibrahim Magu, on Thursday, visited the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
It was the second time in 24 hours that Magu would be sighted in the Presidential Villa since he was named as replacement for Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde in acting capacity.
The EFCC boss, accompanied by his police orderly, walked straight towards the President’s office and returned about 10 minutes later.
It was not clear whether he met with President Muhammadu Buhari as the President was meeting with some ministers at the time of his short visit.
Magu, who spotted a brown suit, white shirt and a brown bow tie, was armed with an office file during the visit.
He resisted all attempts made by journalists for him to grant interview on his way out of the President’s office.
He kept repeating “not now, not now” as he made his way out.
The Thursday visit came about 24 hours after Magu disclosed that the commission would arrest more influential Nigerians by next week.