A former governor of Jigawa State, Saminu Turaki, who was arrested on Tuesday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, may stay in the custody of the anti-graft agency until at least September 19, PREMIUM TIMES has gathered.
Mr. Turaki was arrested at the International Conference Centre, Abuja by operatives of the agency at the launch of a book on the late Zakariya Maimalari, titled: The First Regular Combatant.
Law enforcement agents had been unable to arrest him since a warrant for his arrest was issued by a federal court more than four years ago.
The live airing of the book launch on TV is believed to have alerted the anti-graft agency to Mr. Turaki’s presence at the event attended by major political leaders, leading to his eventual arrest.
He had been on the wanted list of the EFCC since May 3, 2013 when a Federal High Court in Dutse, the Jigawa State capital, issued the warrant for his arrest for serially failing to appear before the court.
The court, presided by Justice Sabi’u Yahuza, had directed the police and the EFCC to apprehend Mr. Turaki on sight and bring him before it.
“You are hereby commanded to arrest the said Ibrahim Saminu Turaki and bring him before me at Federal High Court, Dutse, Jigawa State without delay”, the court ordered the law enforcement agencies.
HISTORY OF TRIAL
The order was as a result of Mr. Turaki’s repeated refusal to appear before the court to answer charges of massive looting of his state made against him by the EFCC.
Mr. Turaki, who served two terms as governor of Jigawa from 1999 to 2007, was first arraigned by the EFCC before Justice Binta Murtala Nyako of the Federal Capital Territory High Court on May 13, 2007 on a 32-count charge of misappropriating N36 billion while in office.
Following his arraignment, he was granted bail in the sum of N100 million with two federal legislators, Bawa Bwari and Bashir Adamu, standing as his sureties.
In 2011, the case was transferred to the Federal High Court, Dutse after the accused successfully challenged the jurisdiction of the FCT division of the court.
He was subsequently re-arraigned on the same 32-count charge in Dutse but has since failed to appear before the court to defend himself.
He had also since 2013 been evading arrest by the police and the EFCC, until his luck ran out on Tuesday.
Following his arrest, an EFCC source told PREMIUM TIMES that the former governor would be held in custody until September 19, three days after federal judges resume from their annual vacation.
The EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, who confirmed the arrest of Mr. Turaki did not provide further information on how long he would be held.
PREMIUM TIMES confirmed at the Federal High Court, Dutse that the case was on May 30 adjourned to September 19.
It was further confirmed that the last time Mr. Turaki appeared at the court was in 2011, when Justice Yahaya took over the case after the previous presiding judge, Yunusa Nasiru, was assigned to the election petitions tribunal.
In 2012, Mr. Yahuza took over the case from Mr. Yahaya. But the case continued to suffer series of long adjournments due to Mr. Turaki’s refusal to appear before the court.
PREMIUM TIMES confirmed that the accused has never appeared before Mr. Yahuza since the case was reassigned to the judge in 2012.
As at the last sitting of the court on May 30, the case had suffered 10 adjournments.
Mr. Turaki is facing a 32-count charge alongside three firms, INC Natural Resources Ltd., Arkel Construction Nigeria Ltd., and Wildcat Construction Ltd.
Another defendant in the case, Ahmed Mohammed, who was also mentioned in every count of the charge, was also declared ‘’now at large.’’
In a 20-page handwritten statement, Mr. Turaki had told EFCC that he personally knew the three companies standing trial with him, but maintained that he did not award them contracts as he, as governor, only approved contracts.
‘’Sometimes I direct contract award to the company that can do it,” he claimed in the statement.
The 10-page long 32-count charge in case no. FHC/ABJ/CR/86/2007 was signed by Isa Gafai of the Legal and Prosecution Unit of the EFCC.
The charge sheet listed 16 investigating police officers who are to give evidence of their investigations and tender exhibits. The name of Ibrahim Magu, the current acting chairman of the EFCC, is on the list as prosecution witness number 13.
Mr. Magu, then a senior officer at the commission, is believed to have played a prominent role in the investigation.
PREMIUM TIMES discovered that after 10 years of series of adjournments, Mr. Turaki’s case is yet to reach hearing stage as witnesses are yet to start testifying.
On May 19, 2016, operatives of the EFCC had stormed Mr. Turaki’s house at 16 Dennis Osadebey Street, Asokoro, Abuja but could not lay their hands on him.
Since then, the former governor had been on the run, though he has been seen at various political and social gatherings.
For instance, he was one of the prominent guests at the December 2016 Daura wedding of Zahra, a daughter of President Muhammadu Buhari, and was also sighted at the Bola Tinubu Colloquium, a well-attended public event in Lagos.
In 2014, Mr. Turaki, who had been elected governor on the platform of the then opposition All People’s Party but defected to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party after his tenure, campaigned vigorously for the present All Progressives Congress governor of Jigawa, Badaru Abubakar.
Mr. Turaki’s immediate successor, Sule Lamido, is also facing trial for corruption at the Federal High Court.
Mr. Lamido, who on July 14, 2015 was arraigned on a 44-count charge before Justice A.F.A Ademola of the Federal High court, Abuja in suit FHC/ABJ/CR/329/2015, had as at May 5 this year made about 32 appearances at the court in Abuja.
PREMIUM TIMES investigations confirmed that, unlike in Mr. Turaki’s case, 18 witnesses have so far testified in Mr. Lamido’s trial.
The presiding judge in Mr. Turaki’s case, Mr. Yahuza, is said to be currently out of the country.
Federal judges are to begin their annual vacation on July 10, and resume on September 15.
Mr. Turaki is, therefore, expected to remain in EFCC custody until he is taken before Mr. Yahuza’s court on September 19. He may then seek a bail application before the court which would be at the judge’s discretion to approve.