A Sokoto High Court has granted N55 million bail to the five management staff of the Sokoto State Primary Staff Pension Board charged for alleged N500million pension scam.
The accused had allegedly diverted the N500 million meant for the payment of pension and gratuities of some retired teachers in the state.
They include Abubakar Aliyu (Secretary), Hassana Moyi (Director of Finance and Supply) Haliru Ahmad (deputy Director of Finance and Supply), Kabiru Ahmad (Accountant) and Dahiru Muhammad Isa (Cashier) of the Board, respectively.
Presiding Judge, Justice Muhammad Muhammad, granted the accused board officials bail in the sum of N55 million each with one surety in like sum who must be a resident of Sokoto.
The surety must also own a landed property within the state.
But the EFCC had earlier objected to their bail.
EFCC counsel, Sa’ad Hannafi objected the bail application on the ground that some of the defendants could jump bail.
He said, “They told EFCC that they are travelling out of the country.
“The grant of bail is at the discretion of the honourable court. However, such discretion must be exercised judicially and judiciously, where the defendants have placed substantial materials for the consideration of the court.
“There is nothing before the court to enable it exercise its discretion in their favour. The defendants are standing trial for very serious offences bordering on huge amount of money, which upon conviction, their conviction will attract severe punishment.
“And where that is the position, they should not be granted bail.”
Citing Ishaya Bamaiyi vs the state, 2001 and one other case to buttress his argument, the EFCC counsel said, “It is our submission to this court that, the issue of administrative bail relied upon by the counsel to the defendants it is insignificant because the bail had elapsed with their arraignment before the court.
“They are now the property of the court. Therefore the court should be wary of releasing them. The said defendants had jumped the administrative bail granted to them during investigation.”
He averred that there was a high risk of interfering with the prosecution witnesses as some of them were at the mercy of the defendants.
Responsible civil servants
Counsel to the defendants, A Y Abubakar, in his defence of their bail application argued that the defendants “are responsible men and woman as well as responsible civil servants of the state.
He added that they had been enjoying their administrative bail granted to them by the EFCC.
“I have the undertaking of my clients, that none of the conditions stipulated under sec 161 (a-f) will be breached,” he said.
The accused board officials are facing a 28-count charge bordering on forgery, criminal breach of trust and misappropriation which were contrary to sections 92 (2), 311 of the Penal Code law CAP 89, Laws of Northern Nigeria and Sections 351, 353, 348 of the Sokoto Penal Code law 2019.
EFCC Zonal Head, Usman Bawa Kaltungo, alleged that the accused used forged vouchers, withdrew and shared monies meant for the payment of pension and gratuities of primary school teachers in the state.
He said the money was withdrawn in tranches.
Kaltungo, who said they acted on a petition brought to them by one of the affected pensioners, said between January 17, 2017 and March 2020, the Director of Finance withdrew the sum of N83.2 million from their account with Polaris bank.
“During the same period, Haliru and Kabiru withdrew 203,217,770.71 and 266,567,053, respectively from the same account in the name of pensioners,” he said.
The case was adjourned till July 26 for the commencement of hearing.