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N450m fraud: Court adjourns ex-minister Bulama’s trial till March

THE Federal High Court sitting in Damaturu, Yobe State, presided by Justice Fadima Murtala Aminu, has adjourned the trial of a former Minister of Science and Technology, Abdul Bulama, till March 21.

The Maiduguri Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting Bulama on a seven-count charge of criminal conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of N450 million.

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This was disclosed in a statement released on Wednesday, January 25, by the Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC Wilson Uwujaren.

The statement said

Bulama was re-arraigned on Monday, November 8, 2021, alongside Mohammed Kadai, a former Commissioner for Integrated and Rural Development in Yobe State, Abba Gana Tata, Muhammad Mamu and Hassan Ibn Jaks.

The ex-minister allegedly received the said sum from Diezani Alison-Madueke, a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, to influence the outcome of the 2015 Presidential election as the Coordinator of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2015 Re-election Campaign Committee in Yobe State.

Kadai was Deputy Coordinator, while the other three defendants were members of the committee.

“Count one of the charges reads, That you, DR. ABDU BULAMA, HON. MOHAMMED KADAI, ABBAs GANA TATA, MUHAMMAD MAMU AND HASSAN IBN JAKS, on or about the 27th day of March, 2015 at Damaturu, Yobe State, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did agree among yourselves to do an illegal act, to wit: conspiracy to commit money laundering and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended”.

“Upon re-arraignment, the defendants pleaded not guilty to all the counts; thereafter, counsel for the prosecution, Mukhtar Ali Ahmed, presented three witnesses.

“At the resumed hearing today, counsel for the fifth defendant M. Tatama through a letter, asked for an adjournment on the grounds that he was before the court of Appeal Abuja Division for a pre-election matter.

“In a bench ruling, Justice Aminu adjourned the matter till March 21, 2023, to continue the cross-examination of the third prosecution witness, PW3,” the statement said.

It will be recalled that the defendants were first arraigned on Friday, May 29, 2018, before Justice Hammada Isa Dashen of the Federal High Court, Damaturu, Yobe State, on a 7-count charge of criminal conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of N450 Million.

During the trial before Justice Dashen, the prosecution counsel Mukhtar Ali Ahmed presented six witnesses and tendered several documents that were admitted in evidence by the court.

At the close of the prosecution’s case, the defendants opted for a “no case submission”, and Justice Dashen granted their prayers as they were discharged and acquitted.

Dissatisfied with the ruling, the EFCC approached the Appellate Court to set aside the decision of the lower Court.

On March 3, 2021, the Appeal Court, in its judgment, upheld the argument of the EFCC that the Lower Court erred in law by discharging and acquitting the defendants.

The appellate court ordered that the case be returned to the Federal High Court and assigned to a judge other than Justice Dashen to be heard from the beginning.

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