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Court acquits ex-NAF chief on charge of funds diversion, orders him to return N57m

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Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday discharged and acquitted a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Mohammed Umar (retd), on charges of alleged funds diversion.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) arraigned Umar for allegedly diverting N66 million from the account of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).

He was first arraigned on a seven-count charge of diversion of public funds on May 11, 2016.

But the court struck out the first six charges on February 23, 2021 and asked the ex-NAF chief to enter his defence on the seventh one.

In his ruling, the judge, however, ordered the ex-NAF chief to refund N57 million to the Force or forfeit his residence at Asokoro extension in Abuja to the Federal Government.

He acquitted Umar on the grounds that the EFCC failed to prove the allegation that the ex-NAF chief ordered the transfer of the said funds for the renovation of his private property in Abuja.

The judge said he was not convinced that the prosecution discharged the burden placed on them to the requisite standard on the charge.

Dimgba said: “Reasonable doubts do exist in the prosecution’s case as made out in the body of this judgment.

READ ALSO: Court to deliver judgment in ex-NAF chief’s trial for alleged money laundering March 17

“As the law commands, I am bound to resolve the doubts in favour of the defence and I so resolve them.

“In the final analysis, I find the defendant innocent on the sole count, and consequently discharge and acquit him.”

The judge also said it would be dangerous to speculate on a wild assumption that the defendant ought to be aware of every financial transaction from NAF’s account.

He added: “It will be dangerous speculation to make a wild and wide assumption that the defendant as the Chief of Air Staff ought to know of every single bank dealing involving NAF simply because he was the Chief Accounting Officer.

“Criminal trials of this nature involve the possibility that an accused person could lose his liberty is to be fought on the strictest tests.”

The judge directed Umar to refund the money to NAF irrespective of the order of court acquitting and discharging him on the charge.

“The defendant shall refund to NAF the total sum of N57 million being the amount actually transferred into the Stanbic IBTC Account No. 9202077424 belonging to the Capital Law Office and used for the renovation/improvement of his property.

“The defendant shall file a report of compliance with the above order with the Registry of the Court and serve a copy of the same on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission within 10 working days from the day the judgment was delivered,” Justice Dimgba concluded.

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