The Sokoto High Court has granted bail for N55 million to the five management staff of the Sokoto State Primary Staff Pension Board who allegedly diverted over N500 million.
The money was meant for the payment of pension and gratuities of some retired teachers in the state.
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The officials include Abubakar Aliyu, Hassana Moyi, Haliru Ahmad, Kabiru Ahmad and Dahiru Muhammad Isa who were Secretary, Director of Finance and Supply, deputy Director of Finance and Supply, Accountant and Cashier of the board respectively.
The Presiding Judge, Justice Muhammad Muhammad granted them bail in the sum of N55 million each with one surety in like sum who must be a resident of Sokoto and owned a landed property within the state.
EFCC objects bail
Earlier, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Sa’ad Hannafi had objected the bail application on the ground tha, some of the defendants were flight risk.
“They told EFCC that they are travelling out of the country,” he said.
“The grant of bail is at the discretion of the honourable court. However, such discretion must be exercised judicially and judiciously, where the defendants have placed substantial materials for the consideration of the court.
“There is nothing before the court to enable it exercise its discretion in their favour. The defendants are standing trial for very serious offences bordering on huge amount of money, which upon conviction, their conviction will attract severe punishment.
“And where that is the position, they should not be granted bail,” he argued.
He cited Ishaya Bamaiyi vs the state, 2001 and one other case to buttress his argument.
“It is our submission to this court that, the issue of administrative bail relied upon by the counsel to the defendants it is insignificant because the bail had elapsed with their arraignment before the court.
“They are now the property of the court. Therefore the court should be wary of releasing them,” he added.
He further argued, “The said defendants had jumped the administrative bail granted to them during investigation.
He averred that there was a high risk of interfering with the prosecution witnesses as some of them were at the mercy of the defendants.
Responsible civil servants
While defending his bail application, counsel to the defendants, A Y Abubakar agued that the defendants “are responsible men and woman as well as responsible civil servants of the state.
He added that they had been enjoying their administrative bail granted to them by the EFCC.
“I have the undertaking of my clients, that none of the conditions stipulated under sec 161 (a-f) will be breached,” he said.
Daily Trust reports that the defendants face 28-count charge bordering on forgery, criminal breach of trust and misappropriation which were contrary to sections 92 (2), 311 of the Penal Code law CAP 89, Laws of Northern Nigeria and Sections 351, 353, 348 of the Sokoto Penal Code law 2019.
The Zonal Head of EFCC, Usman Bawa Kaltungo in an interview with Daily Trust alleged that, the staffers used forged vouchers, withdrew and shared monies meant for the payment of pension and gratuities of primary school teachers in the state.
According to him, the money were withdrawn in trenches.
Kaltungo who said they acted on a petition brought to them by one of the affected pensioners, said between January,17, 2017 and March, 2020, the Director of Finance withdrew the sum of N83.2 million from their account with Polaris bank.
“During the same period, Haliru and Kabiru withdrew 203,217,770.71 and 266,567,053 respectively from the same account in the name of pensioners,” he said.
The case was adjourned till July, 26 for the commencement of hearing.