Godwin Tsa, Abuja
An Executive Assistant to Financial Controller of the Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS) Commission in Abuja, Mohammed Dangana has offered to enter a plea bargain to end his ongoing trial involving alleged fraud to the tune of N587. 7 million.
Dangana is specifically standing trial before Justice Okon Abang of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court on a 15-count charge bordering of criminal diversion of funds, misappropriation and money laundering.
He was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFC) on October 18, 2019 which accused him of conspiring with two others, said to be at large.
He was accused of diverting funds belonging to his employer, with which he among others, acquired property in Abuja, including a plot of land he allegedly bought in Guzape (Abuja) at N200million and an apartment in Garki at N42m.
The prosecution was to call its fifth witness on Monday, but at the mention of the case, defence lawyer, Chief Chukwuma Onyezubelu told the court that his client was interested in entering a plea bargain arrangement with the prosecution.
Onyezubelu said parties were already talking. He prayed the court for an adjournment to enable parties conclude talks on the issue.
Persecution lawyer, Wahab Shittu confirmed the development. He said he was not opposed to the defence’s move to plea bargain.
Shittu said: “The offer of the defendant takes care of what the state would like to achieve at the end of proceedings and in the event of conviction, namely, an offer to change the plea of the defendant.”
He said the defendant has also offered to forfeit to the state, the property, which formed the subject of the case. He said the property is worth N245m.
Shittu added that Dangana has equally agreed to plea guilty to an amended charge and to be given either a custodial sentence or fine, depending on what the court decides
“It is in respect of that third option, which is the sentencing, whether it should be custodial or fine that we are still trying to agree on, although the final decision is for the court to make,” Shittu said.
He also said the decision whether or not to accept the offers made by the defendant is dependent on the disposition of his client (the EFCC).
“I will return to my client, if they are comfortable with the offers, then I have no option. We will be ready to continue with our case if my client objects to the bargain.
“I am not objecting to the request for an adjournment to enable us finalise the arrangement,” Shittu said.
The prosecution witness added that he brought three witnesses to court, but felt it would be unreasonable to bother the court to proceed with trial when parties were working on a plea bargain arraignment.
Ruling, Justice Abang noted that although the case was scheduled for continuation of trial, the defence lawyer sought an adjournment on the grounds that the defendants intends to change his plea.
Justice Abang said even though the prosecution has called four witnesses, Section 270(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) allows plea bargain provided the trial has not reached the point where the defendant is being called upon to enter defence.
He adjourned till April 8 this year for parties to file their plea bargain agreement, failing which there will be continuation of trial.