A former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed, on Tuesday asked a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) sitting in Gudu, Abuja, to grant him permission into his house in Abuja sealed off by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) since May 2016.
Mohammed said the request was to enable him and other members of his household retrieve some personal effects from the sealed house.
Mohammed is standing trial on a six-count criminal charge bordering on abuse of office, receiving of gratification and making false assets declaration of some of his properties proffered against him by the EFCC.
At the resumed trial Tuesday before Justice Abubakar Talba, the former Minister listed some of the personal which he and his family members are seeking to retrieve from the house include 35 sets of babaringa, 15 pieces of perfumes, 50 sets of leather handbags, 65 pairs of shoes, over 35 boxes of clothes, bed sheets, kitchen utensils and a BMW car.
In the application filed on June 7, 2017, Mohammed contended that he and his entire family members, as well as his domestic aides, were residing in the six-bedroom duplex at 1, Mariam Mukhtar Street, Asokoro, Abuja, until it was sealed off by the EFCC sometime in May 2016.
In a supporting affidavit deposed to by Umar Usman, one of the domestic staff to the ex-Minister, the “sealing off” of the property was unexpected, and as a result, the family members moved to a guest house “and have been surviving on few personal effects they had to purchase out of desperation”.
Usman stated, “That there are numerous items belonging to the family members trapped in the property, which if not recovered would be lost and constitute a huge economic loss to the respective owners.
“That further to that, the personal effects of the defendant/applicant’s children namely: Fatima Bala Mohammed, Hauwa Bala Mohammed and Maimuna Bala Mohammed are trapped in the property.
“That numerous gifts secured by the defendant/applicant’s wife, Mrs. Lami Bala Mohammed in respect of her charity/humanitarian works, meant for distribution to the less-privileged during this Ramadan period are currently trapped in the Property”.
The affidavit also stated that “none of the personal properties of the defendant/applicant” was connected with the charges preferred against the former Minister and the proof of evidence.
“That the defendant/applicant and his family have been suffering a lot of hardship as a result of the deprivation,” it added.
Counsel to the defendant, Frank Molokwu, therefore prayed for, “an order granting the defendant/applicant and his family members entry to his premises located at No. 1, Mukhtar Street, Asokoro, Abuja, currently sealed off by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, in order to retrieve his personal effects and those of other members of his family”.
But prosecuting counsel, Ben Ikani, however urged the Judge not to allow the application stalls proceedings.
Ikani disclosed that he could help facilitate how the items requested by the applicant could be released to the him.
He, therefore, requested that he be allowed to call his first witness.
When his request was granted, he called an investigative Officer with EFCC, Ishaya Dauda.
Dauda had taken his oath, when the lead defence counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), noted that the investigator’s statement was not made to be part of the proof of evidence served on his client.
Although, Ikani said, in response, that the law did not make it mandatory for him to include the investigator’s statement in the proof of evidence, he requested an adjournment to enable him to file an additional proof of evidence to exhibit the investigator’s written statement.
Justice Talba, therefore, fixed July 6 for the hearing of the motion seeking the retrieval of personal effects from the sealed house.
The Judge then fixed October 17 for the commencement of trial
The anti-graft agency, in the six counts preferred against him, specifically alleged that Mohammed, while being the Minister of Federal Capital Territory Abuja, had in 2014 in Abuja did accept gratification of a house worth N550m situated at No. 2599 and 2600 Cadastral zone AO4 Asokoro District Abuja from Aso Savings and LoanLoans Bank PLC.
The EFCC claimed the said house was a reward for performing his official duties, an act said to be an offence contrary to Section 18(b) of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act 2000, and punishable under Section 18(d) of the same Act.
Mohammed was also accused of abusing his office while being FCT Minister and Chairman Board of Directors, Aso Savings and Loans Bank Plc.
He allegedly used his office and position to confer corrupt and undue advantage to his associates by allocating four numbers fully detached duplexes and eleven numbers semi-detached duplexes valued at N314m through the Presidential Taskforce on the sale of government houses to them.
The act was said to be an offence punishable under Section 19 of ICPC Act 2000.
Some of the charges read, “That you Bala A. Mohammed on October 24, 2016 in Abuja within the Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, in the course of filling Asset Declaration Form at Economic and Financial Crimes Commission did knowingly fail to make full disclosure of your property to wit: your property at No. 54 Mike Akhigbe Street, Jabi Abuja and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27(3)(a) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004 and punishable under Section 37(3)(c) of the same Act.