The trial of three men accused of stealing N5.7 billion SURE-P funds was stalled Tuesday due to a directive by Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, to the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) to hand over the case to the Katsina State government.
The ICPC had accused the three former officials of Katsina State government of committing the alleged offence during the administration of former governor Ibrahim Shema.
The accused persons are the former special adviser to the governor on SURE-P, Nasiru Ingawa; the Director of Finance and Account of the SURE-P Department Katsina State, Abdulaziz Shinkafi; and a chief store officer in the state civil service, Bello Bindawa.
The federal anti-graft agency had arraigned them before a Katsina State High Court on a 17-count charge bordering on misappropriation of over N5.7 billion SURE-P funds, stating that the offences contravened different sections of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act 2000.
The matter dragged on in court for almost a year over a disagreement between the ICPC and Katsina State government on who should prosecute the case.
When the matter was called on Tuesday, the state’s Solicitor-General, Abdulsalam Sabiu, told the court that the office of the AGF had directed the release of necessary legal documents from the office of the ICPC to the office for onward transmission to the Katsina State government.
He said the ICPC complied with the the directive and released all the documents to the office of the AGF on October 18.
Mr Sabiu, however, added that at the point of releasing the documents to the state government, Mr Malami travelled out of Nigeria on an official assignment.
Based on this development, Mr Sabiu asked for an adjournment.
The trial judge, Maikaita Bako, adjourned the case to November 27 for continuation of trial.
The ICPC had strongly objected to the move by the state government to take over the prosecution.
During the last sitting on July 3, Mr Sabiu told the court that they were not able to retrieve the case file from the office of the AGF because the ICPC had written a petition to the office of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo against handing over the case.
On Tuesday, Mr Sabiu told the court that the office of the vice president considered the matter and referred it back to the AGF for necessary action.
Subsequently, he said Mr Malami approved the request of the state government and directed the release of all the necessary legal documents from the ICPC to the state government.
The solicitor-general told Journalists that they took over the prosecution from the ICPC because the case is of high premium to the state government.
SURE-P, an acronym for the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme, was established January 2012 by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan to re-invest savings from fuel subsidy removal on critical infrastructure projects and social safety net programmes with direct impact on ordinary Nigerians.