The October 13, 2022 ruling of the Federal High Court Dutse, striking out the money laundering charges brought against Saminu Turaki, a former governor of Jigawa State by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC does not amount to an acquittal. This clarification became imperative in view of widespread media reports purporting that the former governor had been discharged and acquitted of the charges preferred against him by the Commission.
Justice Hassan Dikko in striking out the case on Thursday, premised his decision on the absence of the EFCC prosecutor in court and stated that the Commission is at liberty to proceed with the case when it is ready. Without prejudice to the decision by his Lordship, his position was not premised on the weight of the evidence by the prosecution or the lack of it. The substantive issues have not even been canvassed before his Lordship.
The Commission considers this ruling another unfortunate hiatus in the 15 years trial and will certainly return to court to conclude this case. Most of the delays that hallmark this trial had been at the instance of the defendant.
Turaki was first arraigned alongside three companies before Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court Abuja on 13 July, 2007. The case was transferred to the Federal High Court, Dutse in 2011 after Turaki successfully challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court Abuja to entertain the case. Then Turaki jumped bail and, from 2011 till 2017, failed to appear in court until he was re-arrested in 2017. Since the trial resumed in 2018, the case had stalled largely on account of Turaki’s absence in court.
It is however apposite to state that since Justice Dikko took over the trial in December 2021, the only time that the EFCC was not represented in Court was Thursday, October 13, 2022. At the last adjourned date July 7, 2022, the Commission was in court with a witness but the defence objected to his testimony on the account that they had not been served with his statement. Consequently, the Commission asked for an adjournment and the court fixed October 12 and 13, 2022, for the continuation of trial.
On October 12, 2022, the Commission was represented in court but could not present its witness who was ill and this was communicated to the court.
Against this background, it is shocking that a case of such magnitude was dismissed.