The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has discharged and acquitted Sen. Abba Moro, former Minister of Interior, of abuse of office and procurement fraud while the Permanent Secretary of the same ministry, Mrs Anastasia Daniel-Nwobia, has been convicted for breach of procurement laws and for not living up to the enormous demands of her office as the accountable officer of the ministry.
Also discharged was Mr Femi Alaiyebami, a Deputy Director in the Ministry of Interior. Both civil servants, Femi Alaiyebami and Mrs Daniel-Nwobia were prosecuted alongside Abba Moro and others in relation to the recruitment in which 15 people died.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba said he found Daniel-Nwobia guilty of count four which bordered on awarding contracts for online recruitment into the NIS without seeking approval of the Bureau for Public Procurement.
According to the charge, the Permanent Secretary acted contrary to Section 40 of the Public Procurement Act No. 65; of 2007 and the infringement is punishable under Section 58 of the same act.
The penalty in the procurement law for such a violation is five years imprisonment without an option of a fine.
However, Justice Dimgba deferred the sentencing of the retired permanent secretary to 27th April 2022.
Other defendants in the suit are Mahmood Ahmadu (at large), and the contracting firm, Drexel Tech. Nigeria Ltd.
The judge held that the prosecution had failed to establish its case up to the requisite legal standard to warrant the conviction of all the defendants on all of the counts.
The judge thus pronounced, “I see nothing in the evidence before me to suggest that the first defendant (Moro) abused the authority of his office in the manner alleged in count 11”
.The judge faulted the role of the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, NIS, saying he should have taken absolute charge of the exercise.
“I believe some flak should be reserved for PW1, who as the head of NIS, was away from duty at a most critical day in the life of the agency. It is in evidence that the PW1, who as the head of the affected agency, whose recruitment was being conducted should have taken absolute charge to ensure that things did not fall through the cracks”.
“He appeared to have taken a very passive and distant approach to the exercise.”He was attending a social event in Jos on the very day when he, as the head of NIS, was supposed to be on top of the situation to monitor that the exercise went smoothly.”
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) charged Moro who was then Minister of Interior, and others to court on an 11-count charge bordering on abuse of office, obtaining by false pretence, procurement fraud and money laundering.
They were arraigned for their roles in the botched 15th March 2014, immigration recruitment on 29th Feb. 2016, and re-arraigned on 11th May 2016, and they had all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The court in a ruling on 25th June 2020, sustained their no-case submission in relation to counts 1,3,6,7,8,9 and 10 of the charges.
The defendants allegedly defrauded 675,675 applicants of N675,675,000, with each of the applicants made to pay N1,000 to access an e-portal to apply for the immigration job.
The prosecution closed its case with 12 witnesses and 57 documentary exhibits on 25th Nov. 2019.