By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday discharged former Minister of Interior Senator Abba Moro from the criminal changes brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC
The former Minister was put on trial over the ill-fated recruitment exercise into the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) in 2014 in which several applicants lost their lives and sustained injuries in a stampede that followed.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba who delivered judgment in the no-case submission filed by the defendants discharged and acquitted Abba Moro on seven out of the 11 count-criminal charges relating to money laundering and obtaining by false pretence.
EFCC had slammed an 11- count charge bordering on obtaining by false pretence, procurement fraud and money laundering on Senator Moro; permanent secretary of the Ministry at the time, Anastasia Daniel-Nwobia; a deputy director in the ministry, F. O Alayebami; one Mahmood Ahmadu (at large), and the contracting firm given the recruitment job, Drexel Tech Nigeria Ltd.
The defendants were accused of defrauding 676,000 Nigerian applicants to the tune of N676M
The prosecution informed the court that the applicants paid N1000 each through an e-payment platform for their online recruitment exercise into the Nigerian Immigration Service.
The court however held that the defendants have some explanations to make on counts 2, 4, 5 and 11 which bordered on alleged breach of the Public Procurement Act, No. 65 of 2007 in the contract awards.
The award of the contract to Drexel Tech Nig Ltd, the EFCC alleged had no prior advertisement, no needs assessment, and a procurement plan was not carried out before the contract was awarded.
The contract was also alleged to have been awarded through selective tendering procedure by invitation of four firms without seeking the approval of the Bureau for Public Procurement, contrary to sections 40, 42 and 43 of the Public Procurement Act, No. 65 of 2007 and punishable under section 58 of the same act, the anti-graft agency said.
Drexel Tech Global Nigeria Limited, the company that provided the online enlistment and recruitment services was discharged and acquitted and will not be facing further trial.
Justice Dimgba held that contrary to the prosecution claim, Drexel Tech Global Nigeria Limited was a registered company with the legal capacity to enter into the said contract.
In addition, the court held that evidence placed before it showed that the contract for the recruitment exercise received the approval of relevant authorities including the e-registration exercise.
Justice Dimgba held that “there is no ground for proceeding with count one which relates to conspiracy as the charge was based on inference and nothing more.
“None of the said applicants was invited by the prosecution to testify to the payment of the N1000 to access the e-portal. Unfortunately, the prosecution could not call a single job-seeker who applied for the job to give evidence. This is in itself is fatal to this change.
“The evidence adduced by prosecution witnesses contradicted the charge as the Ministry secured all the necessary approvals from relevant authorities for the recruitment exercise.
“The said recruitment process was not arbitrary but was approved by relevant authorities. It makes no common sense in the light of the evidence before the court, to hold that the exercise was an act of deception. On this charge, the no-case submission by the defendants succeeds.”
The court held that “lives were lost in the course of the physical recruitment exercise as a result of stampede and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd defendants as principal officers have some explanations to make as why safety measures were not put in place, during the exercise.”
Meanwhile, the trial has been adjourned to October 29 and 30 respectively.