In a case that might end up being a landmark for the Independent and Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC), an Abuja Federal High Court presided over by Justice Mudasiru Oniyangi has fixed judgment in the National Identity Card scam case involving two former Federal Ministers for the 9th September 2011.
The ICPC had in 2007 arraigned Late Chief S. M Afolabi, the then Minister of Internal Affairs and his Minister of State, Dr. Mohammed Shaata for violating provisions of the ICPC Act 2000.
The two were arraigned on a four count charge of corrupt practices, unfair advantage and for having an indirect interest in a public contract awarded by their ministry, an action contrary to and punishable under sections 19 and 12 of the ICPC Act 2000.
While the case was going on, Chief Afolabi died in an Abuja Hospital and this forced the prosecution team to delete his name from the charge sheet leaving only Dr Shaata for trial.
During the trial which suffered several adjournments, the prosecution called four witnesses and tendered several exhibits.
One of the key prosecution witnesses, Mr. Ike-Chukwu Odoe, a director in the National Civic Registration Centre of the Federal Ministry of Internal Affairs told the court how he gave money to the Minister of State of the ministry, Dr. Shaata.
He testified that whilst he was discussing the need to procure typing sheets for the conduct of the National ID card project with the late Minister S. M Afolabi in his office, the accused person solicited for the assistance of the late minister to be involved in the project.
According to Mr. Odoe, Dr. Shaata told the late Minister that he needed money to take care of the people of his constituency in Taraba State.
The witness testified further that it was at that stage that he too reminded the late minister that about his pending retirement and that late Minister then agreed that the two of them should go and work on the project.
Mr. Odoe told the court that it was the Minister of State who directed him to look for a contractor that would handle the project and he got a contractor called Royal Estate and Investment Company limited.
He informed the presiding judge that he later gave the contract for the supply of 62 000 reams of typing sheets valued at about N36million to the contractor as agreed by the two of them.
The witness specifically informed the trial judge that out the contract sum, he gave the Minister of state the sum of N15million.
The accused in his defence testified that he did not benefit from the contract in any way. He stated that the witness came to him to assist him to get a ministerial appointment and demanded for N15million for mobilization of the party leadership.
The former minister of state explained to the court that he used the money he collected from Mr Odoe to buy vehicles for the party but that he could not secure a ministerial slot for the witness because of the crisis that engulfed the Obasanjo’s presidency towards the tail end.
At the resumed trial of the case on the 5 July this year, counsels to the defence, Mr. A. C Ozioko and the prosecution Mr. Raheem Adeshina adopted their final written addresses.
Consequently, Justice Oniyangi fixed judgement for September 9 this year in the case that started four years ago.