Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned erstwhile DAAR Communications Chairman, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi, before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja over alleged N2.1 billion fraud.
Dokpesi, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), is answering to a six-count criminal charge bordering on alleged procurement fraud and breach of public trust.
He was arraigned alongside his firm, DAAR Investment and Holdings Ltd, owners of African Independent Television, AIT, and Raypower FM.
Specifically, EFCC, in the charge signed by its Deputy Director, Legal & Prosecution, Mr. Aliyu Yusuf, alleged that Dokpesi received about N2.1 billion from the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, for PDP’s presidential media campaign.
According to the charge, the funds were released to the accused persons between October 2014 and March 19, 2015.
The funds were allegedly transferred from an account the office of NSA operated with the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN , to a FirstBank of Nigeria Plc account owned by DAAR Investment and Holding Company Limited.
The prosecution maintained that the transaction was in breach of section 58 (4) (b) of the Public Procurement Act 2007 and punishable under Section 58 (6) and (7) of the same Act, as well as under Section 17 (b) of the EFCC Act, 2004.
Dokpesi pleads not guilty
Meanwhile, Dokpesi, yesterday, pleaded not guilty to the entire six-count charge, even as Justice Gabriel Kolawole adjourned till today to consider his application for bail.
In the interim, the court gave the EFCC the nod to detain the accused person in its custody pending determination of his bail request.
Dokpesi had shortly after his arraignment, prayed the court to grant him bail on liberal terms.
The defence counsel, Chief Mike Ozehkome, SAN, urged the court to consider the status of his client and release him on self recognition or “on the most liberal term,” saying the offences against him are ordinarily bailable.
However, the prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, objected to the court allowing Dokpesi’s lawyer to move the bail application which he said was just served on him yesterday.
Jacobs told the court that he would need time to study and react to fundamental issues he said were raised by the accused person in the bail application.
Consequently, by consent of the two lawyers, Justice Kolawole, adjourned till today to entertain arguments on whether Dokpesi should be granted bail or not.
The Judge, however, slated February 17, 18 and March 2 and 3, 2016, to begin full-blown hearing on the substantive charge before the court.
Some of the charges against him read: “That you Dr. Raymond Dokpesi and Daar Investment and Holding Company Limited between October 2014 and March 19, 2015 in Abuja, conducted procurement fraud by means of fraudulent and corrupt act, to wit: receipt of payment into the account of Daar Investment and Holding Company Limited with FirstBank of Nigeria Plc of public funds in the sum of N2,120,000,000 from the account of the office of National Security Adviser (NSA) with the Central Bank of Nigeria for the funding of media activities for the 2015 presidential election campaign for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 58 (4) (b) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and punishable under Section 58 (6) & (7) of the same Act.
“That you Dr. Raymond Dokpesi and Daar Investment and Holding Company Limited between October 2014 and March 19, 2015 in Abuja, entered into a purported contract on presidential media initiative and received payment in the sum of N2,120,000,000 into the account of Daar Investment and Holding Company Limited with FirstBank of Nigeria Plc, from the account of the office of National Security Adviser (NSA) with the Central Bank of Nigeria on account of the purported contract without a “Certificate of No Objection to Contract Award” duly issued by Public Procurement Bureau and you thereby committed an offence contrary to section 16 (1) (b), (4) & (5) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and punishable under Section 58 (6) of the same Act.
“That you Dr. Raymond Dokpesi and Daar Investment and Holding Company Limited between January 22 and March 19, 2015 in Abuja, knew that an aggregate sum of N2,120,000,000 directly represented the proceeds of criminal conduct of Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (retd) and Shuaibu Salisu, who were National Security Adviser and the Director of Finance, office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) respectively to wit: criminal breach of trust in respect of the said amount, used the said property and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 17 (b) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act, 2004.”
It will be recalled that Dokpesi was on December 1, arrested and detained in connection with money disbursed from the office of the former NSA under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Col. Sambo Dasuki, retd .
The EFCC maintained that he had questions to answer regarding huge sums of money it said was dished out to his media outfit while Dasuki held sway as the NSA.
Nevertheless, Dokpesi was reported to have claimed that the payments were for media coverages his organisation rendered to former President Jonathan prior to the 2015 general elections.
Dissatisfied with his detention, Dokpesi, through his lawyer, filed a motion ex-parte before the high court on December 3, wherein he sought for an enforcement of his fundamental right to freedom.
Ozehkome, SAN, told the court that his client was detained for more than 48 hours without the EFCC entering any charge against him.
He further told the court that Dokpesi was on December 1, summoned via the telephone to report to the EFCC headquarters in Abuja.
He said that Dokpesi had since then remained in custody of the anti-graft agency, adding that he was grilled for so many hours despite the fact that he did not have fore knowledge of why he was wanted by the EFCC.
In a related development, Acting Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Ibrahim Magu, yesterday, vowed to go after all those who looted the funds meant for arms procurement and bring them to book.
Magu said the commission would leave no stone unturned in ensuring that all those implicated in the diversion of the arms cash would be made to face the full weight of the law.
Magu said, however, that the commission had resolved to break the corruption chain in a fair, accountable and transparent manner in line with international best practice.
He disclosed that the commission has so far investigated a total of 1,881 cases within 2015 alone and would do more before the end of the year.
According to him, “Out of this figure, 280 cases were filed in courts and 78 convictions were secured.
Within the same period, eight interim and two final forfeiture orders were handed down by various courts on applications brought by the commission.
The EFCC boss further added that he had put in place machinery to sanitise the Commission internally.
Magu made the declaration at a public event to commemorate the International Anti-corruption Day with the theme “Break the Corruption Chain” in Abuja.
He also expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for creating an enabling environment for the commission to carry out its mandate, adding that he would undertake institutional reforms to increase the Commission’s capacity to fight corruption.
He, therefore, urged civil service organisations as well as other partners to join hands with the Commission in the anti-corruption fight.
“Our common resolve is far stronger than the challenges we face in the fight against corruption.
“Corruption is like a chain whose effect impacts various aspects of the society, undermines democracy and the rule of law, distorts markets, erodes quality of life, leads to human rights violations and fans the embers of terrorism and other threats to human security.”
In his remark, the Director-General of the Bureau of Public Service Reforms, BPSR, Dr. Joe Abah, called for the enhancement of the Code of Conduct Bureau, CCB.
Abah stated that the newly introduced zero- based budgeting would ensure discipline in the implementation of budgets.
Also, Lilian Ekeanyanwu, representing the Technical Unit on Governance and Anti-Corruption Reforms, TUGAR, urged the anti-corruption community to take advantage of the positive body language emanating from the Presidency.
“We must hit the ground running. We must have a national strategy to bring awareness about the issue of corruption and find methods to curb the malaise, while keeping the populace involved,” she said.
The Deputy Chief Mission of the United States Embassy, Maria E. Brewer, in her remark, stated that corruption could undermine institutions and slow development of any nation.
She said that the United States was ready to partner with Nigeria in the fight against corruption.
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