The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Wednesday, arraigned Col. Nicholas Ashinze, a former Special Assistant to the immediate past National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd.), and three others on a 13-count charge of corruption and money laundering to the tune of N36.8bn.
Dasuki is already facing trial before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, together with other set of persons for an alleged diversion of huge sums of money belonging to the Office of the NSA.
But Ashinze was on Wednesday arraigned alongside an Austrian, Wolfgang Reinl, Edidiong Idiong, Sagir Mohammed and five companies over allegations bordering on diversion of huge sums from the office of the former NSA, before a Federal High Court in Abuja. The companies are: Geonel Integrated Services Limited, Unity Continental Nigeria Limited, Helpline Organization, Vibrant Resource Limited and Sologic Integrated Services Limited.
Ashinze and his co-accused persons pleaded not guilty when the charges were read to them when they appeared before Justice Gabriel Kolawole on Wednesday.
Count three of the charge reads:
“That you, Col. Nicholas Ashinze, being a serving officer of the Nigerian Army and a former Special Assistant (SA) to the immediate past National security Adviser, Wolfgang Reinl, being an Austrian national and managing director of Geonel Integrated Services Limited and Geonel Integrated Services Limited on or about 22nd April, 2014 at Abuja, in the Judicial Division of the Federal High Court did transfer the sum of Five Hundred and Fifty Million Naira (N550,000,000.00) to Edidiong Idiong, being a lawyer practicing in the name of Law Partners & Associates, knowing that the said sum forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act to wit : ‘corruption’ and thereby committed an offense contrary to Section 15 (2) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15 (3) and (4) of the same Money Laundering (Prohibition), Act 2011 (as amended).”
After the arraignment on Wednesday, EFCC’s prosecuting counsel, Mr. I. O. Uket, said his witnesses were in court and he was ready for trial to commence immediately.
But Ashinze’s counsel, Ernest Nwoye, informed the court of his client’s pending bail application.
While moving the application, Nwoye urged the court to grant his client bail on personal recognition having earlier been released on bail by a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory.
The counsel representing the second and fifth defendants, Afam Osigwe, also urged the court to grant his clients bail.
The third defence counsel, Paul Erokoro SAN, also said his client, Idiong, being a legal practitioner would not jump bail.
In the same vein, the counsel representing the fourth defendant, N. Jimoh, said his client had a health challenge which he had been managing for close to 40 years.
Responding, Uket argued that the defendants had lost their administrative bail the moment their matter was charged to court and their counsel filed applications for their bail.
In his ruling on the applications, Justice Kolawole granted bail to the accused persons, saying the charges instituted against them were all bailable.
He added, “Since each of the defendants has been on one administrative bail or the other, my sixth judicial sense informs me that I adopt the terms and conditions of the bail granted to the defendants by the EFCC and my learned brothers in the FCT High Courts.”
The judge added that the case would be given accelerated hearing, and adjourned till January 23, February 1 and 14; and March 7 and 21, 2017 for trial.