Business - Energy - News - March 9, 2021

Former Minister to remain in EFCC custody till March ending for trial over corruption

The Federal Capital Territory High Court says a former Minister of State for Power in the Goodluck Jonathan administration, Muhammad Wakil, would remain behind bars till March 31, 2021 until his application for bail is determined.
The operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arrested the former Minister in Abuja over the weekend.
On Monday, the anti-graft agency arraigned the former minister before the court presided by Justice S.B.Belgore over alleged involvement in the misappropriation of about N27 billion approved by the Federal Government for the settlement of the retirement benefits of the staff of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
A lawyer and one-time member of the National Assembly, Wakil was accused by the EFCC of corruption and abuse of office.
His charge alongside two contracting firms, Corozzeria Nigeria Limited and Pikat Properties Nigeria Limited, include that they received gratification of about N148 million from Bestworth Insurance Brokers Limited.
The money was said to have been part of the N27.1 billion approved by the Federal Government as outstanding insurance premiums and claims of deceased and incapacitated former workers of the PHCN.
The former minister pleaded not guilty then the charges were read to him in court. Consequently, counsel for the prosecution, Benjamin Manji, requested the court to adjourn the case to a date in future for the commencement of trial, while the former minister would be remanded in prison.
However, his lawyers, B.C Igwilo, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) asked the judge to grant his client bail to enable him be available to prepare his defence.
The prosecution counsel however opposed the oral application for bail, urging the court to order Wakil lawyers to file a formal application to that effect.
Further proceedings on the case was adjourned by Justice Belgore to March 31, 2021 for determination of bail application as the former minister was sent to wait at the EFCC custody.
Wakil, a former Vice Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (North East), is not new to corruption charges.
In 2018, the anti-corruption agency arraigned him along with four others at the Federal High Court, Maiduguri, Borno State over allegations that they collected about $115million from a former minister of petroleum resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election.
Born on February 6, 1965 in Damboa Local Government of Borno State, Wakil was also the majority leader in the House of Representatives under the first term of the Obasanjo/Atiku administration between 1999 and 2003.

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