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El-Rufai on corruption charges,court orders arraignment

An Abuja High Court on Monday insisted that former FCT minister, Nasir el-Rufai, has a case to answer, saying he must make himself available for arraignment.

Justice Abubakar Umar granted the order while ruling on preliminary objections filed by counsel to el-Rufai, Akin Olujimi (SAN) challenging the arraignment of the accused persons.

Also to be arraigned are Mrs. Altine Jubrin, former director general, Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS), and Mr. Ismaila Iro, former general manager, AGIS.

The judge, in his ruling, granted permission to the EFCC to arraign el-Rufai on an eight-count charge of fraudulent allocation of land and abuse of public office.

Mr. Olujimi in the preliminary objections, argued that the charges levelled against his clients had no legal basis, having been filed under a repealed law, the ICPC Act 2003. He said that under the repealed law, the FCT High Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter and urged the court to quash the charges and discharge the accused persons.

Justice Umar held that the EFCC had filed the fresh charges based on the ICPC Act of 2000. The judge also held that under the Act, the EFCC has the powers to amend the charges against an accused before judgment is delivered.

“In this case, the accused have yet to be arraigned to take their plea, so the court can grant the EFCC leave to amend the charge, as contained in the provisions of the ICPC Act 2000,” he said.

The judge also held that the EFCC, under provisions of section 46 of the Act setting it up, had the responsibility to investigate all economic and financial crimes in the country. He also held that the ex-minister’s request to quash the case lacked merit, and threw out the application.

Ready for defence

In response to the arraignment order by the High Court, Mr. el-Rufai has declared that he is prepared to fight the land allocation case.

According to a statement released by his media adviser, “He (Mr. el-Rufai) once again denies involvement in any corrupt activities, and he urges the EFCC to desist from claims that there is any other prosecution case against him other than this land case that is set to commence anew next month.”

The statement held that when Mr. el-Rufai returned to the country last year, he had announced that the defence of that case is one of his priorities.

“This robust defence led to the dismissal of the charges at the Federal High Court last year, after the court agreed with his preliminary objection that the charges were filed in a wrong court and under a wrong law.”

Mr. el-Rufai believes that the EFCC took the defeat badly and vindictively filed the case afresh at the High Court.

The former minister had filed an objection based on what his legal team call “the EFCC’s attempt to amend the charges after they discovered that they again filed under a wrong law.”

However, Justice Umar fixed April 7 2011 for the arraignment of the defendants on the fresh charges.

According the statement from Mr. el-Rufai, he “respects today’s ruling and he intends to soldier on, confident in his innocence.”

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