The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Tuesday arraigned a former governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema, before Justice Babagana Ashgar of the Federal High Court sitting in Katsina on a 26 count charge of Conspiracy and Money Laundering to the tune of N5,776,552,396.
Mr Shema is accused of laundering N5,776,552,396, which was allegedly stolen from the account of SURE-P Katsina.
He is said to have conspired with one Idris Kwado who is on the run, to perpetrate the fraud.
One of the charge against the former governor reads that “You Ibrahm Shehu Shema whilst being the Executive Governor of Katsina State on or about the 17th February, 2014 at Katsina, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did indirectly control the sum of N502,216,400 (Five Hundred and Two Million, Two Hundred and Sixteen Thousand, Four Hundred Naira Only) withdrawn from Katsina State SURE-P account No.5030053838 domiciled at fidelity Bank Plc, Katsina Branch meant for peace education, advocacy and mediation programme which money you ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit; Fraud and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 15(2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act”.
Mr Shema pleaded not guilty to the 26 count charge.
The court had yesterday. dismissed an application made by the former governor challenging the competency of the charge and jurisdiction of court to try him.
Mr Ashgar agreed with the submission of the learned prosecuting counsel, Lateef Fagbemi that objections as stipulated in section 396 (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 can only be taken after the plea of the defendant has been taken.
Consequently, the application was dismissed.
Before Mr Shema could take his plea after stepping into the dock, Counsel representing him, E.C Ukala pleaded with the court to adjourn the arraignment to another date in view of the fact that doing so would disrupt the travel arrangement of the learned silk.
Prosecution counsel S.T Ologunorisa SAN opposed the prayer of the defence counsel. He argued that personal issues cannot be considered by court.
“My Lord, there is nothing like personal circumstances. What we have is judicial circumstances and there is a positive court order that the defendant should take his plea,” he said.
Mr Ologunorisa further added that if the lead defence counsel is not personally disposed, there are other counsel in the team that could proceed with the matter.
He finally submitted that this is just an ingenious approach to frustrate the arraignment of the defendant and urge the court to dismiss the application.
The prosecution also opposed the attempt to move the application of bail for the defendant on the grounds that is was premature.
Mr Ologunorisa argued that the application was not ripe for hearing as the prosecution needed time to respond to the motion for bail.
After listening to the arguments by counsel, the trial judge adjourned the matter to 27th, April, 2018 for hearing of bail application and remanded the accused in the custody of the EFCC pending the hearing and determination of his bail application.