Pension Scam: A’Court Refuses to Set Aside Freezing Order
The Court of Appeal in Abuja, Tuesday dismissed an application to set aside the order freezing the accounts Esai Dangabar, one of the six suspects standing trial for the N32.8 billion fraud in the police pension scheme.
Dangabar had filed an application, challenging the decision of Justice Lawal Gumi of the Abuja High Court which ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to attach and take possession of his assets and to freeze his bank accounts.
But Dangabar, in an appeal dated May 16, 2012, raised three issues wherein he urged the appeal court to set aside the decision of the Abuja high court.
He said that the forfeiture order breached his right to fair hearing as enshrined in Section 36 (1) of the 1999 Constitution and that the order was inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution as it took away his property right and presumption of innocence.
He also argued that the freezing order of his account did not comply with Section 34 of the EFCC Act.
But in a unanimous decision read by Justice Kolawole Bada, the Appeal Court resolved the three issues raised by Dangabar in favour of the EFCC.
Two other justices who held the same view were Justices Zainab Bukachua and Husseini Mukhtar.
The court ruled that the interim forfeiture order pending the hearing of the charge against him was provided for under the EFCC Act.
“The court, having been given that power, the exercise of it has not taken away the accused right to fair hearing”, the three justices reasoned.
The court further ruled that the provisions of Section 28 and 29 of the EFCC Act was validated by Section 44 (2) of the 1999 Constitution and was therefore constitutional.
The court also ruled that the presumption of innocence could not be interpreted to allow a suspect to retain the proceed of the alleged crime made against him.
Accordingly, the court ruled that Section 34 of the EFCC Act was substantially complied with by the lower court.
The order freezing the accounts of the suspects reads in part: “All the bank accounts currently being operated and maintained by Inuwa Wada at keystone and Zenith Bank all totalling 11 in number are hereby temporarily frozen until the determination of the charge Number FCT/Cr/64/2012.
“Similarly, all the bank accounts presently being operated and maintained by Esai Dangabar, Atiku A. Kigo and Veronica Onyegbula in the following banks: EcoBank, FCMB, Access Bank, Sky Bank, Fortis Micro Finance Bank, Aso Savings, GTB, Main Street Bank and Wema Bank are herby temporarily frozen pending the hearing and determination of all the said criminal charge No. FCT/64/2012 presently pending before this court.”
The six suspects were arraigned on March 29, 2012, on a 16 count-charge of conspiracy and criminal breach of trust before Justice Mohammed Talba of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory , Gudu, Abuja.