Former Chief of Naval Staff vs EFCC: Court admits NN letter as evidence

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A FCT High Court on Tuesday admitted as evidence a letter from the Nigerian Navy to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission claiming ownership of a property located at 2717 Cadastral Zone A06, Maitama district, Abuja, a property that is meant to be a safe house for the Nigerian Navy in line with international best practices. A safe house as gathered by our reporter is an apartment or a house designated for secret intelligence gathering or operations base.

 

The letter was tendered by Defence counsel of the former Chief of Naval Staff, Retired Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin as evidence in chief on the ongoing trial against him by the anti graft body.

Usman Jibrin with 2 other retired senior officers were on May 25, 2016 arraigned on a four-count charge bordering on alleged criminal conspiracy and purchase of a property valued at N600 million while in service. He was charged alongside retired Rear Admiral Bala Mshelia and retired Rear Admiral Shehu Ahmadu and Harbour Bay International Limited.

In the letter dated 7 January 2016, the Nigerian Navy informed the EFCC Ag Chairman, Ibrahim Magu that the property in question belongs to the Navy, corroborating the position of the 3 retired Admirals. Documents to support this claim were attached to the letter to the Chairman of the EFCC and admitted in evidence by the Court. A copy obtained by our reporter showed that the letter was signed by Rear Admiral GA Anyankpele for the Chief of Naval Staff, and received by the EFCC on 8 January 2016. The EFCC prosecution witness, Shehu Ala could not give any reason for not attaching the Navy documents to the Charge.

The court also admitted as evidence documents from Diamond bank.

During the proceeding, an EFCC witness Ms Margret Enena, the Manager of a branch of Diamond Bank in Abuja, told the court that the account of Naval Engineering was domiciled in her branch and submitted to the court.

Speaking during cross examination by counsel to the first defendant, Mr Yakubu Maikyau (SAN), the Bank manager said she was not in that branch of the bank when the account was opened. She stated that “I have not had any transaction with the first defendant”, the former Chief of Naval Chief. “I am in the court because the court has ordered us to provide all documents relating to the account,’’ she said.

When cross examined by the second defendant`s counsel, Mr Olatunji Salawu, the witness told the court that Naval Engineering Services Ltd was a limited company .

According to her, she does not know the directors of the company nor witnessed the signing of the transfer of property.

The EFCC had alleged that retired Rear Admirals Mshelia and Ahmadu who are defendants who were signatories to the account of Naval Engineering Services Limited paid for a property.

EFCC also said the property located at Plot 2717 Cadastral Zone, AOC, Maitama, Abuja was handed over to Harbour Bay International instead of Naval Engineering Services which developed and funded the construction.

The letter by the Nigerian Navy that was tendered as evidence of no wrong doing by Usman Jibrin and the 2 other defendants however countered the claim of the anti-graft agency as regards the ownership of the property.

A further investigation revealed that while the case is in court, the EFCC had given the disputed house to one Chief Atang who is already in occupation.

The Presiding Judge, Justice Sadiq Umar adjourned the case till May, 22, May 23, and May 24 for continuation of trial.

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