The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is to appeal the July 20, 2017 Court of Appeal ruling, which acquitted a former Adamawa State governor, Bala Ngilari, of the five-count charge of corruption, which the state’s High Court had on March 6, 2017 found him guilty of, and sentenced him to five years in jail.
Ngilari was arraigned before Justice Nathan Musa on a 17-count charge in September 2016, and after going through 52 exhibits tendered by the EFCC, as well as the testimony of six witnesses, the trial judge found him guilty of five out of the counts, and sentenced him to five years in prison on all the counts without an option of fine.
Rather than allow the rule of law to reign supreme, Ngilari secured a suspicious bail hinged on a letter sighting his “bad health situation”. The emergence of the letter, itself was shrouded in suspicion and controversy, as the Controller of the Nigeria Prison Service, Adamawa Command, reportedly expressed ignorance of the letter. This subsequently incurred the wrath of the authorities at the prison, which issued query to officials involved.
Ngilari was prosecuted by the EFCC along with Ibrahim Andrew Walye, his then secretary, and Sanda Jonathan Lamorde, his then finance commissioner, for their involvement in the approval of a contract in favour of El-Yadi Motors Limited to the tune of N167,812,500 for procurement of 25 vehicles without following due process.
Justice Nathan had ruled that: “All the allegations are criminal in nature, and the onus of proof is on the prosecution to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt, as well as it is clearly indicated that the provision of the Adamawa State Bureau for Public Procurement Law 2013 was violated in the award of the contract.”
Pundits consider the decision of the Appellate Court, which was read by Justice Folashade Omoleye, as shocking, and the last thing that the current war against corruption being spearheaded by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, needs.
It is curious that Justice Omoleye, delivering the ruling, alluded to the fact that Ngilari was not “a procurement entity” and that as a former governor cannot be charged “as if he was an ordinary procurement officer”.
The Commission has therefore resolved to appeal the ruling, because the EFCC believes that the judgment is a travesty of justice.