24 January 2012, Sweetcrude, ABUJA — An Abuja High Court on Monday gave the Economicand Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) a March 26 deadline to arraign three more suspects named in the 180 million dollars Halliburton bribery scam.
Those affected by the order are a former Permanent Secretary, Alhaji Ibrahim Aliyu, AVM Abdullahi Bello and Mohammed Bakari of the Urban Shelter Ltd.
Other companies involved in the bribery scam were the Intercellular Nigeria Ltd, Sherwood Petroleum Ltd and Tri-Star Investment Ltd. The accused were brought to court on a nine-count charge bordering on corruption and bribery.
Justice Abubakar Umar gave the order after the EFCC Counsel, Mr Chris Abidi, pleaded for an adjournment within which to arraign the suspects on fresh charges.
Umar said that the March 26 date would be the last the court would give EFCC to either arraign the suspects or have the case struck out. “This long adjournment I am giving the EFCC will be the last. This is to allow the EFCC to interface with its U.S. sister agency in utilising the required security information.
“Let me warn that failure by the EFCC to arraign the accused on that day, I will strike out the case and write to the Minister of Justice to lodge a complaint about the attitude of the commission.”
The judge ordered that hearing notices be issued to all the Counsel to the accused for them to appear on March 26. Umar asked all counsel involved to adhere to the specific details of the order, “or suffer certain penalties for not following the instructions listed in the documentation”. Abidi had told the court that the EFCC recently “stumbled” on an information from the U.S.
Special Anti Fraud Unit, which was also investigating other Americans involved in the scam. He said the information would affect the character of the current charges, for which the commission wanted to arraign the suspects.
“We want to utilise the information coming from the U.S. on the three accused.” The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that on March 14, 2011, Umar granted the EFCC leave to arraign the accused, but the commission failed to do so. Counsel to the EFCC, Mr Godwin Obla, had complained that the second accused (Bakari), was proving difficult to be served with court papers to facilitate his arraignment.
He said the other suspects involved in the alleged bribery scam had been served and that all efforts made by the EFCC to serve Bakari had failed.