A Federal Capital Territory High Court presided over by Justice Sadiq Abubakar Umar on Tuesday, October 18, 2011, turned down an application filed by a former Minister of the FCT , Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and two others to quash the charges of misconduct and abuse of office filed against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. In his ruling, Justice Umar said the consolidated motion on notice filed by the accused persons on May 12 and June 28, 2011, through their counsel is unmeritorious and has failed the test of law. The judge who maintained that the prosecution has established a prima-facie case against them ordered that the three accused persons must face trial to defend the charges against them.
The two other accused persons arraigned with El-Rufai are a former Director-General, Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS); Altine Jubrin, and a former General- Manager, Abuja Geographic Information System, AGIS, Ismail Iro. The judge, said that from the proof of evidence before the court, the three accused persons have explanation to make in the course of trial. He also said that Section 2 of the ICPC Act was elastic enough to hold the accused persons liable to face trial . The EFCC had on Wednesday, July 6, 2011, argued that the three accused persons as public officers, can be tried by the Commission as the anti-graft agency has an absolute authority to prefer charges against them.
Counsel to the EFCC, Adebayo Adelodun, SAN, had questioned the motion seeking to quash the charges saying that it was an abuse of court processes to have brought the same motion which had earlier been ruled upon. He said that the court had on March 28th, 2011, granted EFCC leave to prefer charges against the accused persons and that the court’s decision was borne out of proof that the EFCC had a prima facie case against them. Adelodun further averred that the defence counsel’s submission that the first accused person, Mallam El- Rufai was not a public officer but rather a political appointee hence should not be charged under the ICPC’s Act, was erroneous as section 2 of the ICPC Act clearly describes a public officer as one who is employed or engaged in the service of the federation. “My lord, the enabling law has intrinsically described who a public officer is and takes into consideration circumstances of other people engaged as consultants, ministers, and other non- regular staff in the service of the federation.”
On the argument by the defence counsel that the charges have violated the law of duplicity and should then be quashed, prosecution counsel said that according to some rulings of both the Supreme and Appeal courts, it is not in all cases that duplicity of charges are deemed as a sufficient ground to quash a case but only when there is an occasion to miscarry justice. “The use of conjunctives ‘and’ and ‘or’ which the defence counsel are relying upon to drive their argument of duplicity cannot be sustained as it does not in any way mean that but is explanatory in nature as to the time of committing the crime.”, Adelodun had submitted. He had insisted that the crime for which the first accused was being charged was committed before his disengagement in May 29 2007.
Earlier, Messrs Akin Olujinmi (SAN) and Kanu Agabi (SAN), counsel to the accused persons had separately asked the court through applications brought to quash the case against their clients, saying that the offences being alleged were not disclosed in the proof of evidence and that it was an abuse of court processes to have duplicated their charges. They submitted that the court needed to safeguard the accused persons from harassment and public embarrassment. The Senior Advocates opined that because the office of a minister was not described as a public servant, but was distinctively described in the constitution, no charge against the first accused person should be sustained.
Agabi particularly said: “The only thing tangible in their charge is that the fist accused revoked and re-assigned a land but I find nowhere in our laws where that is a crime. Rather Section 28 of the Land Use Act gives him the right to do so.” The case is adjourned till November 15 and 16 for accelerated hearing.
El-Rufai and his co-accused were initially re-arraigned on April 17th, 2011. Their arraignment followed a petition to EFCC, chronicling allegations of abuse of office against El-Rufai and how he misappropriated government land which he allocated to his friends and family members, in flagrant breach of the Abuja Master plan. According to the petition, the former minister, between 2003-2007, allocated ten plots of land in choice areas of Abuja and in various sizes to his family members, including his wife, Hadiza Isma El-Rufai, who got two plots- one in the Asokoro district and the other in the Kubwa district. Ten other family members and relations were also allocated different plots of land at various locations in the FCT. El-Rufai was granted bail on self-recognition by Justice Umar.
One of the count charges reads: “That you Mallam Nasir Ahmed El-Rufai (M) between 13th day of December, 2003 and 14th of December, 2007 or thereabout at the Ministry of Federal capital territory, Abuja in the course of and or in the performance of your official duties as the Minister of the federal Capital Territory did use your said Office and position to gratify and confer corrupt or unfair advantage on your relation to wit your wife Hadiza Ahmed El-Rufai by reallocating to her parts of the parcel of land known as plot No 1201, Asokoro District (A4) Abuja, originally allocated in the Federal Capital Territory Master plan to power Holding company of Nigeria Plc for the construction of transmitting/ injection sub-stations which fully and/or intentionally revoked for that purpose, thereby committing an offence contrary to and punishable under section 19 of the corrupt and Other related Offences act, 2000”.