EFCC to consolidate charges against Sylva as DPP withdraws case



TO enable it consolidate charges against him, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) said it has withdrawn its six-count charge of fraud against the former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva.

Sylva, however, will have some reprieve, as ‎the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Muhammed Diri, has withdrawn the charges against him over a N2.45 billion case brought against him by the EFCC.

In another development, the agency has arraigned an Assistant Director and Head, Internal Audit, National Gallery of Art, Abuja, Orji Chidi Festus, before Justice Bello Kawu of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court on a three-count charge of obstructing its investigations, contrary to Section 38 (2) (a) of the EFCC Act 2004.
Charges to be consolidated

In a statement yesterday, EFCC Spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren, said the withdrawal is to allow the agency “consolidate the charges against the former governor pending before two Federal High Courts in Abuja.”

In the charge withdrawn yesterday, Sylva was being prosecuted for allegedly converting N2 billion worth of property and resources belonging to Bayelsa State between 2009 and 2010, during his tenure as governor, to himself.

There is also a 42-count charge pending before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, in which, alongside Francis Okokwo, Gbenga Balogun and Samuel Ogbuku, Sylva allegedly conspired and used three companies – Marlin Maritime Limited, Eat Catering Services Limited and Haloween-Blue Construction and Logistics Limited to move about N19.2 billion from the Bayelsa State coffers.

The crime was allegedly committed under false pretense of using the withdrawn money to augment salaries of the state government workers between 2009 and 2012.

DPP withdraws charges
At the sitting, O. J Nnadi (SAN), representing the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Diri, prayed the court to withdraw the charges against the accused. EFCC Assistant Director, Legal and Prosecution, J.A Ojogbane, told the court that there had been preliminary arguments in respect of a similar case before Justice Mohammed, which necessitated the application to withdraw the case at hand.

He submitted that the anti-graft agency was not part of the decision to withdraw the charges. Mr. Festus Keyamo, who was initially prosecuting the case, withdrew last week following which the case was handed over to the DPP.

The case was then given to another private lawyer‎, O. J. Nnadi (SAN), to prosecute. Nnadi, during yesterday’s proceedings, tendered the fiat given him before the court that the EFCC had instructed him to withdraw the suit. He then prayed the court to strike out the case.

He had told the court: “We are ready for trial but following the instruction this morning, EFCC directed that this charge be withdrawn.‎ I received instruction from Ojogbane that this charge against the defendant be withdrawn. We urge this court to strike out the charge.”

Nevertheless, Ojogbane, who appeared together with Nnadi and other lawyers for the prosecution, expressed surprise over the team leader’s claim, saying: “I’m a little bit surprised by the submission of the learned silk (Nnadi).

“The instruction from my own EFCC Director, Legal and Prosecution, Mr. Chime Okoroma, is for me to appear with the DPP of the Federation,‎ whom he said would be coming to court this morning to withdraw this charge on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation.

“When I got to the court this morning, I did not see him (DPP) but I saw the name of the learned silk on the cause list. I approached him and he confirmed to me that he had been briefed by the office of the AGF.

“He (Nnadi) told me he has the fiat of the AGF, which is already admitted as exhibit in this court.

“It is not correct to say that EFCC asked him to withdraw the charge. EFCC did not instruct me to come and withdraw the charge.”

Ojogbane explained that the ‎reason given by the DPP for withdrawing the case was that Sylva had similar charges pending against him before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the same Federal High Court, Abuja.

Sylva’s lawyer, Mr. Israel Olorundare (SAN), did not oppose the application for withdrawal of the suit. He prayed the court to restrain the EFCC from arresting Sylva based on the withdrawn charges.

However, while Nnadi did not oppose the release of ‎his passport, he said the court could not possibly give any order in anticipation of Sylva’s arrest.

Justice Chukwu then struck out the case, as he held that the AGF has the power under the constitution to delegate his power to issue a fiat, as was done in the case. He also ordered Sylva’s passport to be released to him and struck out his case before the court.

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