The former Chief of Air Staff, Mohammed Dikko Umar, has been discharged and acquitted of six out of the seven charges of money laundering allegations leveled against him.
Recall that Umar was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in May 2016 over his alleged involvement in money laundering and procurement fraud.
According to the antigraft agency, the former service chief was involved in a fraud to the tune of about N9.7 billion, while he was in office between 2010 and 2012.
In a ruling on Tuesday, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court in Abuja held that the EFCC failed to establish a prima facie case that would warrant the accused person to open his defence with respect to counts one to six.
The judge added that the counts were based on “speculation, suspicion and assumptions”, adding that it “would amount to a judicial displacement of the constitutional presumption of innocence which ensures to his benefit.”
The judge, however, held that Umar has a case to answer on count seven wherein he was accused of transferring N66 million from the official bank account of the Nigerian air force (NAF) domiciled in Stanbic IBTC bank to his lawyer, for the renovation of his property in Asokoro, Abuja.
The judge ruled that “Having reviewed the evidence adduced as relates to this count, I am of the view that there is a ground for proceeding with a defence in relation to it.
“There is evidence led, as shown in Exhibit AMD15, that indeed such a transfer of funds was done. And the transfer was done around March 2012 at a time when the defendant was in charge at the NAF as the chief of air staff.
“Evidence had been led that the property in question at Asokoro had been purchased by the defendant (albeit through the PW1 and by proxy), and for his own personal use.
“There was no evidence or suggestion that the property was an official property or that it belonged to the NAF or was being purchased for the NAF.
“No evidence was also led that the property was being used by the defendant for the discharge of any official business of the NAF.
“If the property was purchased as a private or personal property, though the defendant was the chief of air staff, how could funds then be transferred from the bank account of the NAF to the private solicitor engaged by PW1 on behalf of the defendant for the renovation or improvement of the property purchased by or for the defendant for his personal and not official capacity?
“The circumstances surrounding this transfer of funds raise questions bordering on breach of trust and abuse of office. An explanation is needed in the context of defence.
“In the light of all the above, I hold that the no-case submission of the defendant succeeds in part and fails also in part.
“I uphold the no-case submission in relation to counts one, two, three, four, five and six. I hereby discharge and acquit the defendant in relation to these counts.
“I refuse and dismiss the no-case submission in relation to count seven. I hereby direct the defendant to open his defence in relation to this count.”
However, the case has been adjourned till April 28 and 29 for Umar to open his defence.