From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
There are moves by former chief of Air Staff, Mohammed Umar, to settle the N4.8 billion money laundering charges filed against him out of court.
Umar was recently arraigned on a seven-count charge before Justice Binta Nyako of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court, but was admitted to bail on self recognizance, after pleading not guilty.
When the case was called yesterday for trial, counsel to Umar, Hassan Liman informed that his client has commenced negotiation with the Federal Government for the matter to be settled out of court.
Liman particularly disclosed that his client had meetings with officials of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) where discussions were held on the proposal.
According to him, the first meeting, involving the head of legal department of the commission, the prosecution counsel and Umar was held on May 31 while another meeting was held on June 3. In attendance at both meetings was a member of the EFCC task force Ibrahim Musa and the prosecution counsel, Sylvanus Tahir .
The lawyer said it was resolved that the defendant should send a formal communication to the commission.
Liman further disclosed that a formal letter addressed to the Chairman of the EFCC, Mr Ibrahim Magu dated June 6, had already been dispatched.
Confirming the development, the prosecution counsel said he was aware that the defendant had written to the chairman of the commission seeking to engage the Federal Government in a discussion over the charge.
Meanwhile, when the matters was called, prosecution counsel said they were ready for the trial but the defense counsel said that it would be prejudicial to commence trial.
He said this was in view of the ongoing attempt to settle out of court.
The defence counsel urged the court that not withstanding the fact that the case had been fixed for trial, the court should grant an adjournment to enable them proceed with the out-of-court settlement.
The prosecution counsel, however, insisted that the out-of-court settlement was not a ground to stop trial since it was not a civil matter. He urged the court to order for commencement of trial.
Justice Nyako, however, held that trial could not commence since the condition precedent for trial had not been met by the defence.
Nyako said the defence ought to have filed a summary of defence for the trial to commence.
She adjourned the matter till June 16 for commencement of trial.
Umar was arraigned on a seven-count charge bordering on money laundering totalling N4.8 billion during his time as the head of the Nigerian Air Force.