By Dipo Olowookere
The corruption charges levelled against Senator Danjuma Goje by the federal government have been thrown out by a Federal High Court sitting in Jos, Plateau State and the Senator discharged and acquitted by the court.
This comes barely a month after the former Governor of Gombe State held a crucial meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House and was urged to drop his ambition to become Senate President to allow Senator Ahmed Lawan, the anointed candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), take the position, which he eventually did.
It was gathered that on Thursday, the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation applied to the court for withdrawal of the charges against the lawmaker, who was almost certain to become the nation’s number three citizen before he was pacified to step down.
When the case came up for hearing on Friday, counsel from the OAGF, Pius Akutah, told the court that, “My Lord, we have an application having taken over the case and reviewed the 21 count charges of no submission and by the ruling of this court quashed 19 leaving only two count charges in which they are to enter defence.
“As it is, the Federal Ministry of Justice wishes to withdraw those two charges against the accused persons. This action is in line with the power vested in the AGF by virtue of Section 128 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 particularly sub section 1 of that section (128).
“It’s in accordance with the power vested in the AGF by the constitution that we wish to withdraw the charges before your Lordship. This is our humble application and (we) urge your Lordship to grant our application.”
Responding, the counsel for Mr Goje, Mr Adeniyi Akintola (SAN), did not oppose the application.
He said, “My Lord, we are not opposing the application but we are urging your Lordship to evoke the provision of section 2(a)(b) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 and acquit them of the charges.
“The same section gives your Lordship the discretionary power to make an order for the accused persons to be discharged and acquitted. My Lord has the power under Section III.
“As we urge your Lordship to consider our humble application, we wish to thank you for your patience with us since 2011 when we started this journey on the case. We also wish to commend the AGF for (the) wise decision in bringing this case to an end.”
In his ruling, the judge, Justice Babatunde Quadri, said pursuant to Section 174(1) particularly sub-section (b) and coupled with Section 108 (2) of 2015, “the application by the AGF to withdraw the charges is hereby granted and the accused persons are hereby discharged.”
Recall that in 2011, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) filed a 21-count charge against Mr Goje, but 19 of the charges were struck out in March 2019, leaving only two counts.
He was standing trial along with a former Executive Chairman of the state’s Universal Basic Education Board, Aliyu El-Nafaty; and S.M. Dokoro for an alleged N5bn fraud. A fourth defendant, the ex-Governor’s cousin, Sabo Tumu, who is now late was removed from the charge sheet.
Justice Quadri had while ruling on the “no-case” submission filed by Mr Goje through his lawyers on September 14, 2018, discharged him and other defendants on 19 of the 21 counts. He held that the defendants had a case to answer on counts eight and nine and ruled that they should open their defence on May 8, 2019.
But on June 7, 2019, the OAGF took over the case from the EFCC, shortly after he (Goje) agreed to step down for Mr Lawan.
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