“Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, ‘I called you to curse my enemies, but behold you have persisted in blessing them these three times!” –Numbers 24:10
The above Biblical quote would suffice to describe what transpired at the resumed trial in the case instituted by the ICPC against Maimuna Aliyu. For those who may not know this story drawn from the Holy Bible, I will just let you a bit into the facts. Balaam was a diviner who was hired by Balak the King of Moab to curse Israel. This, the King of Moab did because he was sore afraid of Israel. He knew he could not go to war physically against them and so needed a spiritual approach to achieve safety for himself and his subjects. The Supreme God was with the Israelites that when Balaam arrived, rather than curse the Israelites, God turned his tongue that he began to bless them. How does this relate to the court case initiated by ICPC against Ms Aliyu?
Hajiya Maimuna Sanda Aliyu has been facing several wars in recent times simply because she stepped on some big toes by revealing and questioning some financial impropriety and corporate governance issues she discovered in her last place of employment – Aso Savings and Loans Plc. Those who considered her their enemy would stop at nothing to pull her down. They found some good allies, ironically at the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC); the same commission that Hajiya Maimuna had been previously nominated as a Board member but her nomination was later put on hold by the Presidency, no thanks to the same people.
Like the Moabites, the traducers of Ms. Aliyu were sore afraid of her because she has a dossier on them that could send them to jail if a genuine war is waged against corruption. Their tool would therefore include intimidation, threats, forgery and hiring of tutored witnesses against her in a trumped up charge in the court room. Like the Israelites, the supreme God is with Ms. Aliyu.
Aso Savings & Loans Plc had alleged that Ms. Aliyu disposed of some property belonging to the financial institution while she was a staff therein and appropriate the proceeds to her personal coffers. The Balaam in this case to nail Ms. Aliyu must be the buyer of the property who must say that he paid directly to Ms. Aliyu and that the transaction was just between the two. The buyer therefore is a key witness to the prosecution and his evidence must carry much weight.
On November 29, 2018 at the resumed hearing of the case at the FCT High Court 11 in Jabi before Justice Nasir, the agent to the buyer of the property Babagana Bashir was called up as a prosecution witness. After being sworn to an oath gave his evidence in-chief and was later cross-examined by the Defence Counsel.
Things Fall Apart:
Babagana Bashir as prosecution witness, when asked to narrate his relationship with the Defendant with regards to why he was in court, stated that sometime in 2012, the Defendant called him to her office in Aso Savings and asked him to buy some adjoining 3 plots of land measuring 7500sq metres for N57m (fifty seven million Naira). He stated further that he marketed the said property to his client Mr. Vincent Msheila who was agreeable to the offer and gave him dollar equivalent of the selling price to effect payment. That he took the dollars to the defendant’s office at Aso Savings to effect payment and conclude the purchase. He added that the Defendant called her Managing Director through intercom to inquire if she should accept the payment in American dollars or ask the buyer to have it changed to naira. That the MD said she should accept the dollars. That the defendant dropped the phone collected the money from him and left the office. That she later returned, after about 30 minutes with the original documents to the said property, 3 plots of land and handed them to him- Babagana Bashir. That his client – Vincent Msheila never perfected his title to the property until 2014. That they severally went to Aso several to assist with the perfection but they kept saying they were trying to sort out some documentation issues. That Aso Savings later said they do not have a record of the payments made for the said plots of land.
The Prosecution witness stated further that it was sometime in 2017 that he received a call from ICPC requesting he comes to their office to state his side of the story which he honoured and did state his side of the story. That after about three visits to the commission, the head of the investigation called a meeting of all parties and asked that the matter be resolved amicably. That he offered to get across to his client (ultimate buyer of the property) who was then in the US to let him know about the happenings. That when he did, his client offered to pay the purchase price again to avoid trouble. That upon his client’s return, he visited the ICPC and made another payment for the plots of land. He was issued a receipt and authority to collect all documents that would validly transfer ownership of the plots of land to him. Witness stated that he thought all issues relating to the transaction were finally resolved as the team lead of the investigation at ICPC had told him that he would do a report and close the file but he was surprised when some months back, his client called him to say that he was again invited by the ICPC and was made to change his earlier statement under duress. That his client asked for his advice and that he advised that his client instructs his lawyers to write the commission which he obliged and that he, Bashir has a copy of the said letter.
There was a pin drop silence in the court room. The prosecutor was sweating and could not do anything more than close his case.
The Defense applied that the ultimate buyer of the property – Vincent Msheila be subpoenaed to testify in court. The matter was adjourned to January 2019.
It was indeed a true reflection of the Balak/Balaam scenario. I would want to think that prosecution would not have called this witness to strengthen the defendant’s case. There couldn’t have been a reason to call such a vital witness to ruin your case. Things have indeed fallen apart for the traducers of Ms. Aliyu. Indeed:-
“Falsehood flies and the truth comes, limping after it. As a lie travels around the globe, the truth is putting on its shoes. Falsehood will fly, as it were, on the wings of the wind, and carry its tales to every corner of the earth, while truth lags behind; her steps, though sure, are slow and solemn, and she has neither vigour nor activity to pursue and overtake her enemy. However, truth prevails at the end. The hand can never cover the light of the moon”
It is my prayer that we shall all be alive to see how this suit ends, even as we anxiously wait to see what happens at the next adjourned date in January 2019.
There are, however, questions begging for answers. Why should an anti corruption agency – the ICPC recall someone who had earlier written a statement at his own freewill and compel the person to change the statement under duress just to nail a suspect? Where lies the INDEPENDENT status of the ICPC? What Ministry supervises the ICPC and why is the Minister silent? What are the media aids to the President doing? Why have they not called the attention of the President to this, that is, if he has not read nor heard of the show of shame that is the lot of the commission? Is a government that came into office wearing the garb of an anti corruption crusader going to look the other way while these atrocities continue? Before taking Nigerians to the next level, the government of today at the Federal level ought to conscientiously address this impunity as there are so many Maimunas out there crying for justice.
…Chukwudike Uwa writes from Abuja
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