The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday, arraigned a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Muhammed Dele Belgore and a former minister, Professor Abubakar Sulaiman before Justice R.M Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos on a 5-count charge of conspiracy and possession of proceeds of crime to the tune of Four Hundred and Fifty Million Naira (N450, 000, 000. 000).
“But what has EFCC got to do with donations voluntarily made by oil marketers to Jonathan government?, Professor Sulaiman afterwards told Journalists.
The defendants are alleged to have made a payment of Fifty Million Naira (N50, 000, 000. 00) to one Sheriff Shagaya and also taken possession of the sum of Four Hundred and Fifty million naira (N450, 000, 000. 000) without going through a financial institution.
One of the counts reads, “that you, Muhammed Dele Belgore (SAN) and Professor Abubakar Sulaiman on or about the 27th day of March, 2015, in Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to directly take possession of the N450, 000, 000. 00 (Four Hundred and Fifty Million Naira) which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act and you thereby committed an offense contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012 and punishable under Section 15(3) & 4 of the same Act”.
The defendants pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charges preferred against them.
In view of their plea, counsel to the first defendant, Ebun Shofunde, (SAN) prayed the court to grant bail to his client based on
“He is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and not likely to jump any bail; he has been faithful to the administrative bail granted him and will make sure to stand his trial”, he said.
In the same manner, counsel to the second defendant, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde, (SAN) also prayed the court to grant his client bail on self recognizance. “He is a Professor of Political Science at the
University of Abuja and was once a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he submitted himself to the EFCC and never jumped the administrative bail granted him”, he said.
Rotimi Oyedepo, counsel to the EFCC did not oppose bail but asked the court to grant the defendants bail in terms that will compel them to be available for trial.
Justice Aikawa granted the defendants bail on self recognizance and ordered that their international passports be deposited with the Deputy Chief Registrar of the court and must only be released on court order.
The matter was adjourned to February 23, 2017 for trial.
In a swift reaction, Professor Sulaiman said their arrest is an abuse of prose curial power.
He said; “Ex-Minister of Planning Mr Kale Belgore, SAN and my humble self, were invited by the EFCC to its Lagos Office for questioning on N450 million campaign fund during the Presidential elections. It is however apt to put the record straight and situate the development within the context of the politics currently playing under the present administration. I wish to state unequivocally that this did not come to me as a surprise… The question is; what has EFCC got to do with donations voluntarily made by oil marketers to Jonathan government… But I assure you it cannot stand in any court of law…”