From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court has threatened to strike out the two-count bribery charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) filed against a former Senator for Kaduna Central, Shehu Sani.
Justice Ekwo issued the threat on Tuesday following a complaint by the counsel to Sani, Mr Abdul Ibrahim, SAN, that the EFCC misrepresented the proceedings of the court in a publication it made on Twitter.
According to the charge, the EFCC alleged that the defendant received money from Alhaji Sani Dauda under the false pretence that it would be used to bribe its suspended Chairman, Ibrahim Magu, so as to shield him from investigation and prosecution.
It furtber alleged that the ex-senator equally used false pretence and collected $15,000 from Dauda under the guise that the Chief Justice of Nigeria approved that the money be given to four judges and a prosecutor for them to hands-off his case and that of his estranged in-law, one Abubakar Musa.
Senator Sani has denied the allegations, pleading not guilty to the charge.
Trial Justice Ekwo had on October 21, 2020, admitted $25, 000 cash and two Samsung phones in evidence.
When the matter was called, Ibrahim drew the attention of the judge to what he said the anti-graft agency reported on social media, which he said was not a true reflection of what transpired in previous proceedings of the court.
In his reaction to Ibrahim’s observation, Justice Ekwo said he would not hesitate to throw out the case should the EFCC further misrepresent the proceedings of the court through media trial.
‘The court of public opinion is not a court of coordinate jurisdiction. It is this court that has the last say at the end of this matter. Not the court of public opinion.
‘From the beginning of this case, I have said the record of this case are public records and it can be obtained by anybody including the media,’ the judge said.
While addressing the EFCC lawyer, Justice Ekwo warned that there would be consequences should the Commission further misrepresent the proceedings of the court.
‘I don’t want to hear about distorted publications again. If I hear about it again, I’m going to throw away your case and you can take it to whoever you like,’ Justice Ekwo warned.
Meanwhile, the court discharged the 10th Prosecution Witness, Mr Bako Aliyu, after he concluded his evidence on Tuesday.
Aliyu, an operative of the EFCC, while being cross-examined by Sani’s lawyer, said the Commission had in the course of its investigations retrieved from MTN the call log that contained conversations that took place between the defendant and the nominal complainant in the matter, Alhaji Sani Dauda.
The witness, however, failed to tender the call log in evidence before the court. Asked if the EFCC engaged the Nigeria Police Force to investigate the bribery allegation since its former Acting Chairman, Mr Ibrahim Magu, was also accused, the witness, responded in the negative.
Justice Ekwo subsequently adjourned further hearing in the matter till May 24.
Sani, a former senator from Kaduna, is answering to a charge bordering on bribery, name-dropping and influence-peddling. He is accused of fraudulently obtaining the sum of $25,000 from the Chairman of ASD Group of Companies and board member, Peugeot Automobile Ltd, Alhaji Sani Dauda.