THE Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Wednesday arraigned a former Chairman of DAAR Communications Plc, Chief Raymond Dokpesi, before a Federal High Court in Abuja on six counts of money laundering and fraud-related procurement charges.
Dokpesi, who was arraigned along with his firm, Daar Investment and Holding Ltd, pleaded not guilty to all the six counts.
After Dokpesi took his plea on Wednesday, Justice Gabriel Kolawole ordered that he be remanded in the EFCC custody pending the hearing of his bail application by 12.30pm on Thursday.
Those who have been arrested in connection with the arms procurement probe include a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.); a former Governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa; his son, Sagir, and a former Minister of State for Finance, Ambassador Bashir Yuguda.
Dokpesi’s lawyer, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), told the judge at the beginning of the proceedings that his client had been in the EFCC custody for eight days and was feeling dizzy due to an ailment he had planned to travel abroad to seek medical attention before he was arrested.
When the first count was read to him and asked if he understood it, he said, “I vividly understand the charge” and when asked if he was guilty or not, he said, “Absolutely not guilty, capital N. O. T, not guilty.”
In response to the subsequent five counts, he repeated the same line, “I am absolutely not guilty.”
The prosecution, led by Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), accused the defendants of receiving N2.1bn from the Office of the National Security Adviser between October 2014 and March 19, 2015 for the Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential media campaign in breach of provisions of the Public Procurement Act, Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act and the EFCC (Establishment) Act.
In the first count, the prosecution alleged that the committed conducted “procurement fraud by means of fraudulent and corrupt act” by receiving money for media campaign initiative through Daar Investment and Holding Company Limited’s account with First Bank of Nigeria Plc.
By this, the EFCC said the businessman had committed an offence “contrary to Section 58(4) (b) of the Public Procurement Act, 2007 and punishable under Section 58(6) and (7) of the same Act.”
The accused persons were also accused of entering into a “purported contract on presidential media initiative” and received the sum of N2.1bn “on the account of the purported contract without a ‘Certificate of No Objection, duly issued by Public Procurement Bureau”.
This, the anti-graft agency said, constituted “an office contrary to Section 16(1) (b), 4 and (5) of the PPA Act and punishable under Section 58 (c) of the same Act”.
The prosecution also alleged that the defendants’ receipt of the money from the Office of the NSA on the account of the “purported contract without any open competitive bidding for the said contract,” was an offence contrary to Section 16(1) (c) and (d) of the PPA and punishable under Section 58 (c) of the same Act.
In the fourth count, Dokpesi and his firm allegedly submitted “a purported proposal” for the said contract for the presidential media initiative and received payment of the N2.1bn on account of the contract “without a written and comprehensive request” to them by the Federal Government of Nigeria, thereby committing an offence contrary to sections 45(3) and 46 of the PPA and punishable under Section 58 (6) of the same Act.
In count five, the accused allegedly “took control” of the N2.1bn which they “reasonably ought to have known was proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: fund obtained from corruption”, thereby committing an offence contrary to Section 15(2) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15(3) and (94) of the same Act.
In the sixth count, the defendants were accused of knowing that the sum of N2.1bn “directly represented the proceeds of criminal conduct” of the former NSA, Sambo Dasuki, a retired colonel; and Director of Finance of the Office of the NSA, Shuaibu Salisu, in the form of criminal breach of trust in respect of the money.
The prosecution alleged that the defendants thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 17(b) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act.
The defence lawyers, led by Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) and Mike Ozekhome (SAN), said they were only able to serve their client’s bail application, dated December 8, 2015, on the prosecution on Thursday because the charges were served on them late on Wednesday.
Jacobs said he intended to oppose the bail application especially because of a leg of the prayers contained in the application seeking an injunction restraining the EFCC from further arresting and interrogating Dokpesi.
The judge then gave the prosecution up till 9am on Thursday to file its processes in opposition to the bail application.
Some friends and family members of Dokpesi, who was decked in a ‘kangol’ cap with a checkers shirt and a grey pair of trousers, were in court to witness the Wednesday’s proceedings.
Justice Kolawole said after the hearing of the accused person’s bail application on Thursday, trial would commence on February 17 and would continue on February 18, March 2 and 3, 2016.
Meanwhile, the Bring Back Our Girls advocacy group has called on the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, to ensure the speedy investigation, transparent and conclusive prosecution of all cases related to the procurement of arms for the nation’s counterterrorism war.
It threatened to “name and shame all corrupt judges according to the evidence available” whenever a judge placed any other consideration above the dictates of the law in the dispensation of his or her duties to Nigerians and the country.