There are indications that the Nigerian anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, may offer a plea bargain to suspects in the ongoing arms procurement scam trial.
Saturday PUNCH learnt on Friday that if the EFCC succeeded in establishing that the suspects were guilty, it would not oppose a plea bargaining from them.
According to the Black’s Law Dictionary, 9th Edition (2009), plea bargaining, is “ a negotiated agreement between a prosecutor and a criminal defendant whereby the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser offence or to one of multiple charges in exchange for some concession by the prosecutor usually, a more lenient sentence or a dismissal of the other charges.’’
The EFCC had in 2005 used plea bargaining in the trial of the former Inspector-General of Police, Tafa Balogun, and later in the case of a former Bayelsa State Governor, the late Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, as well as high profile banking fraud cases.
A top source in the EFCC, confided in Saturday PUNCH that the commission was considering the option of plea bargaining for the suspects.
The source, however, said that the option ought to be initiated by the defendants.
He said that before such plea bargaining is granted, those concerned must be ready to refund the money they were accused of looting.
The EFCC top official stated, “The present administration is not interested in hauling anybody into jail. It, however, needs funds to drive its developmental programmes.”
The commission, had on Monday arraigned a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.); a former Director of Finance in the NSA office, Shuaibu Salisu and an ex-Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Aminu Baba-Kusa and two companies for allegedly diverting N32bn.
On Tuesday, the EFCC arraigned a former Minister of State for Finance, Bashir Yuguda; a former Governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa; his son, Sagir Attahiru; and their firm – Dalhatu Investment – on 22 counts of misappropriation of about N13bn meant for the purchase of arms by the Office of the NSA.
Also arraigned along with them, before Justice Peter Affen of the same Federal Capital Territory in Maitama, are Dasuki and Salisu. The accused were said to have misappropriated the money between August 2013 and May 7, 2015.
The EFCC source, who confided in Saturday PUNCH, said that there was a report earlier in the week that the commission had begun searching for the assets of the accused.
This, he said, was part of moves to adopt the plea bargaining option, if the accused persons were ready for it.
When contacted, the spokesperson for the EFCC, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, said, “It is not my duty to predict future course of action by the commission. If and when such a decision is taken, the media will be duly informed.”