By Maxwell Adeyemi Adeleye
Haruna Jauro, the former acting Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Jouro’s in-law, Dauda Bawa, and their company, Thlumbau Enterprises Limited, approached the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos earlier today to make known their intention to enter into a plea bargain on the N295.5m fraud allegation brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC).
The defense counsel, Babajide Koku (SAN), told Justice Mojisola Olatereju-Ishola that the defendants had informed the prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo of their intention to enter into a plea deal as a way of settling the case with the anti-corruption agency.
In response to Babajide’s information, Rotimi confirmed the notification, adding that it is the right of the defendant to seek for a plea bargain. He stated section 270 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA 2015) which provides that an accused through the consent of the prosecution can plead guilty to an alleged offense. The same section relies on court discretion to sentence according to the agreement of the prosecution and the defense counsel in a plea bargain.
Having heard from the parties, Justice Olatereju-Ishola adjourned the case to November 21, 2016, for the hearing on the outcome of the plea bargain application.
Jauro and two other entities were arraigned on Tuesday, April 12th, 2016 for defrauding NIMASA of N295, 618,500 between January 2014 and September 2015. The defendants had pleaded not guilty to the 19 counts charges bothering on theft, fraudulent conversion of NIMASA’s property to their private use and money laundering.
The anti-graft agency accused Jauro, Bawa and Thlumbau Enterprises Limited of contravening Section 15(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) (Amendment) Act, 2012, and liable for punishment under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
Jauro assumed the leadership of NIMASA following the sack of Patrick Apkobolokemi, the agency’s former Director-General, who was then being prosecuted for an alleged multi-billion naira fraud at the agency.
Christian Okafor, a staff of Zenith bank and witness presented by EFCC during the trial on May 17th, 2016, had explained how Thlumbau Enterprises received from NIMASA the sum of One hundred and eighty million, forty-seven thousand, five hundred Naira between January 6, 2014, and September 16, 2015.
The witness identified Dauda Bawa as the sole signatory to the account of Thlumbau Enterprises Limited and Haruna Jauro as the promoter of the account, adding that he had met Jauro in his NIMASA office where he indicated interest in opening an account for him with his bank.