by Musa Abdullahi
As a prelude to the consolidation of all the charges against former Bayelsa State governor, Timipre Sylva, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Monday withdrew the six-count charge of fraud before Justice E. S Chukwu of the Federal High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja.
The withdrawal, according to the Commission in a statement issued Monday is to allow it consolidate the charges against the former governor, pending before two Federal High Courts in Abuja.
Sylva is not only an ally of the incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, he is widely reported to have paid for the President’s form to bid within the Party that costs him a whooping 24 million naira. The Bayelsa former governor who is a chieftain of the All Progressives Congress, APC, was the Chairman of the Inauguration committee that planned events leading to President’s Buhari’s Emergence.
Here’s how the EFCC explained its decision, “In the charge which was withdrawn today, Mr. Sylva was being prosecuted by the EFCC for allegedly converting N2billion (Two Billion Naira) worth of properties and resources belonging to Bayelsa State between 2009 and 2010, during his tenure as governor of the State.
Lagos-based lawyer and member of the APC, Festus keyamo, had last week said he has “voluntarily” withdrawn as the prosecuting counsel in the N19.2 billion fraud case involving former Governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Slyva. Mr Keyamo, said “recent developments” in the case has forced him to withdraw as the counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) who is prosecuting Mr Slyva.
The former governor also has similar charges, a 42-count charge, pending against him before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
In the charge, the former governor along with Francis Okokwo, Gbenga Balogun, and Samuel Ogbuku, allegedly conspired and used three companies – Marlin Maritime Limited, Eat Catering Services Limited, and Haloween-Blue Construction and Logistics Limited to move about N19.2 billion from Bayelsa State coffers between 2009 and 2012, under false pretence of using the withdrawn money to augment salaries of the state government workers.
At Monday’s hearing, O. J Nnadi, SAN, representing the Director of Public Prosecution, Muhammed Diri, prayed the court to withdraw the charges against the accused.
Mr. Nnadi, however did not clearly state the conditions upon which the application for withdrawal was being sought. But the counsel to the EFCC, J.A Ojogbane, told the court that, there had been preliminary arguments in respect of a similar case before Justice Mohammed which, according to him, necessitated the application to withdraw the case at hand.
In his response, Mr. Sylva’s counsel, O I.Oloundare, SAN, prayed the court to dismiss the charge, since the prosecution had sought to withdraw it.
He also pleaded with the court to order the EFCC to release the international passport of his client.
After listening to the submissions of both counsels, Justice Chukwu discharged the accused and ordered the EFCC to release his passport.