A former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mr. Bala Mohammed, on Tuesday asked a High Court of the FCT in Gudu, Abuja, to grant him entry into his house in Abuja sealed off by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission since May 2016 to enable him and other members of his household to retrieve some personal effects trapped in the property.
The personal effects which Mohammed and his family members are seeking to retrieve from the house include 35 sets of babaringa, 15 pieces of perfumes, 50 sets of leather handbags, 65 pairs of shoes, over 35 boxes of clothes, bed sheets, kitchen utensils and a BMW car.
The EFCC is prosecuting Mohammed before the court presided over by Justice Abubakar Talba on six counts bordering on abuse of office, receiving of gratification and making false assets declaration of some of his properties.
In the application filed on June 7, 2017, Mohammed contended that he and his entire family members, as well as his domestic aides, were residing in the six-bedroom duplex at 1, Mariam Mukhtar Street, Asokoro, Abuja, until it was sealed off by the EFCC sometime in May 2016.
According to a supporting affidavit deposed to by a domestic aide to the ex-minister, Mr. Umar Usman, the “sealing off” of the property was impromptu, and as a result, the family members moved to a guest house “and have been surviving on few personal effects they had to purchase out of desperation”.
Usman stated, “That there are numerous items belonging to the family members trapped in the property, which if not recovered would be lost and constitute a huge economic loss to the respective owners.
“That further to that, the personal effects of the defendant/applicant’s children namely: Fatima Bala Mohammed, Hauwa Bala Mohammed and Maimuna Bala Mohammed are trapped in the property.
“That numerous gifts secured by the defendant/applicant’s wife, Mrs. Lami Bala Mohammed in respect of her charity/humanitarian works, meant for distribution to the less-privileged during this Ramadan period are currently trapped in the property.”
The affidavit also stated that “none of the personal properties of the defendant/applicant” was connected with the charges preferred against the ex-minister and the proof of evidence.
“That the defendant/applicant and his family have been suffering a lot of hardship as a result of the deprivation,” it added.
The ex-minister lawyer, Mr. Frank Molokwu, who is of the law firm of Chris Uche (SAN), therefore prayed for, “an order granting the defendant/applicant and his family members entry to his premises located at No. 1, Mukhtar Street, Asokoro, Abuja, currently sealed off by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, in order to retrieve his personal effects and those of other members of his family.”
At the Tuesday’s proceedings, EFCC’s prosecuting counsel, Mr. Ben Ikani, informed the judge that the application should not be allowed to stall proceedings.
While saying he could help to facilitate how the items requested could be released to the defendant, he sought to respond to the application.
He, therefore, requested that he be allowed to call his first witness.
When his request was granted, he called the investigative officer, Mr. Ishaya Dauda, as the first witness.
Dauda had taken his oath, when the lead defence counsel, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), noted that the investigator’s statement was not made to be part of the proof of evidence served on his client.
Although, Ikani said, in response, that the law did not make it mandatory for him to include the investigator’s statement in the proof of evidence, he requested an adjournment to enable him to file an additional proof of evidence to exhibit the investigator’s written statement.
Justice Talba, therefore, fixed Thursday for the hearing of the motion seeking the retrieval of personal effects from the sealed house.
The judge then fixed October 17 for the commencement of trial.
The defendant was arraigned by the EFCC on May 10, 2017.
The former minister was remanded in Kuje Prison, Abuja, shortly after he pleaded not guilty to the charges read to him on May 10.
But he was granted bail in the sum of N500m two days later on May 12, 2017.
The anti-graft agency, in the six counts preferred against him, specifically alleged that Mohammed, while being the Minister of Federal Capital Territory Abuja, had in 2014 in Abuja did accept gratification of a house worth N550m situated at No. 2599 and 2600 Cadastral zone AO4 Asokoro District Abuja from Aso Savings and LoanLoans Bank PLC.
The EFCC claimed the said house was a reward for performing his official duties, an act said to be an offence contrary to Section 18(b) of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act 2000, and punishable under Section 18(d) of the same Act.
Mohammed was also accused of abusing his office while being FCT Minister and Chairman Board of Directors, Aso Savings and Loans Bank Plc.
He allegedly used his office and position to confer corrupt and undue advantage to his associates by allocating four numbers fully detached duplexes and eleven numbers semi-detached duplexes valued at N314m through the Presidential Taskforce on the sale of government houses to them.
The act was said to be an offence punishable under Section 19 of ICPC Act 2000.
Some of the charges read, “That you Bala A. Mohammed on October 24, 2016 in Abuja within the Judicial Division of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, in the course of filling Asset Declaration Form at Economic and Financial Crimes Commission did knowingly fail to make full disclosure of your property to wit: your property at No. 54 Mike Akhigbe Street, Jabi Abuja and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27(3)(a) of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (Establishment) Act 2004 and punishable under Section 37(3)(c) of the same Act.