by Oke Efagene
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has said yesterday, that it will challenge the acquittal of former minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Nasiru El-Rufai, of charges of abuse of power.
El-Rufai was acquitted on December 13, by an Abuja High court, clearing him of all charges laid against him in an Abuja land grab case.
According to the EFCC, the decision of the court to acquit the former FCT minister was against the ‘weight’ of evidence against him.
Premium Times reports:
The commission said the ruling will be challenged at the Appeal Court.
“This is against the weight of the evidence presented by the Commission in court. Consequently, the EFCC has resolved to pursue an appeal against the ruling at the Court of Appeal,” Wilson Uwajeren, a spokesperson for the commission said Sunday in a statement.
El-Rufai, now a leading member of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC), was freed of charges of allegedly using his position as minister to revoke a plot of land from its previous owners – Power Holding Company of Nigeria Plc – and re-award same to his wife and associates.
The former minister, alongside Altine Jibrin, former director-general of the Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS) and its former General Manager, Ismaila Iro, was first arraigned on May 12, 2010 and later re-arraigned on an amended eight- count charge on April 7, 2011.
In his ruling Friday, Justice Sadiq Umar discharged and acquitted the accused former government officials, saying the prosecution failed to prove the allegations against them.
El-Rufai was acquitted the same day the Supreme Court nullified an October 2009 conviction of Bode George, a chieftain of the governing Peoples Ruling Party, PDP, and former chairman of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA.
George and five others were convicted by Justice Olubunmi Oyewole of the Lagos High Court after being found guilty in an N84 billion fraud filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) George was sentenced to 30 months in prison and was released in 2011.
The Supreme Court ruled that the former NPA boss’ conviction was wrong since the offence he was convicted for-contract splitting- was not yet a crime in 2009. He was freed alongside the other five.
His discharge, as well as El Rufai’s, have drawn mixed reactions. The EFCC said the decision of the Supreme Court was “unfortunate”.
“Without going into the merit or otherwise of the Supreme court ruling, it is unfortunate that the apex court disagreed with the decision of the two lower courts- the Lagos High Court and the Court of Appeal- which upheld the conviction of the accused persons based on the evidence presented by the Commission,” the commission said in its statement.
The commission said while the order nullifying the conviction was “saddening”, it will abide by the law and respect the ruling.