A Federal High Court sitting in Apo, Abuja, has ordered that former minister of state for power, Muhammad Wakil, be remanded in prison custody, over his alleged involvement in the mismanagement of N27 billion set aside for the payment of retirement benefits to staff of the defunct Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN).
Wakil was said to have been arrested at his residence in Abuja by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over the weekend.
The anti-corruption agency slammed a two-count charge bordering on corruption and abuse of office on the former minister on Monday, after presenting him before Justice S.B. Belgore.
Wakil, a former lawmaker, was charged alongside two companies; Corozzeria Nigeria Limited and Pikat Properties Nigeria Limited, for allegedly receiving N148 million as gratification from Bestworth Insurance Brokers Limited out of the N27.1 billion approved outstanding insurance premiums and claims of deceased and incapacitated staff of PHCN.
Count one of the charge reads: “That you Muhammed Wakil, while being Minister of Power and managing director of Corozzeria Nigeria Limited, and Corozzeria Nigeria Limited, on or about 22nd December, 2014, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did corruptly receive the sum of N118 million through Corozzeria Nigeria Limited’s Polaris Bank Account No. 4010023658 from Bestworth Insurance Brokers Limited out of the sum of N27.1 billion being the sum approved for the payment of outstanding insurance premiums and claims of deceased and incapacitated staff of Power Holding Company of Nigeria( PHCN), and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 8(1)(a) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000 and punishable under Section 8(1)(b)(ii)of the same Act.”
When the charges were read, the defendant pleaded “not guilty.”
Benjamin Manji, counsel for the prosecution, asked the court to set a date for the commencement of trial and remand the defendant at a correctional centre pending trial.
However, counsel for the defendants, B.C Igwilo, a senior advocate, prayed the court to grant bail to the former minister, who is the first defendant.
“My lord, our humble application is for the first defendant to be admitted to bail, “he said
But the prosecution counsel opposed the oral application, urging the court to order the defendant to file the application formally.
Belgore adjourned the matter till March 31, 2021, for determination of bail application and remanded the defendant in EFCC custody.