The Lagos Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday arraigned Ishaq Abubakar before Justice P.O. Lifu of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on an 11-count charge bordering on cybercrimes.
The suspect was arrested by officers of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) on August 22, 2020, at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos on his way to Dubai with 2, 863 Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards and four Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards allegedly concealed in parks of Noodles.
He was subsequently handed over to the EFCC on Thursday, September 10, 2020, by the Deputy Comptroller, Enforcement (NCS), Abudulmumuni Bako, for further investigation and prosecution.
While handing over the suspect to the EFCC, Bako, who represented the Customs Area Comptroller, A.Ma’aji, had said: “Officers of the Nigeria Customs Service at the Departure Hall of the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, on August 22, 2020, intercepted the suspect with 2, 863 ATM cards, which he carefully concealed in parks of Noodles.
“The suspect, who claimed to have come from Kano to Dubai aboard the Emirate Evacuation flight, was seen with someone who was assigned to facilitate his movement through the airport checks.
“This raised the suspicion of the officers who insisted he should be physically and thoroughly checked after the scan machine had revealed he was carrying parks of noodles.”
In his response, the Executive Chairman, EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, who received the suspect on behalf of the Commission in his capacity as the then Zonal Commander, had assured the Service that the Commission would duly investigate the suspect and any other party that might be involved in the alleged criminal offence.
“There are a number of possibilities. There is an element of conspiracy, foreign exchange (FOREX) malpractices and money laundering,” he had said.
Bawa, who also emphasized the possibility of the suspect being a member of a network, had added that “we have observed a trend in which unsuspecting Nigerians are lured into opening accounts to be bought at a fee. “
Investigation revealed that 10 of the 2,863 ATM cards were stolen, as the owners had confirmed losing their cards, which were found in his possession.
It was further revealed that the remaining ATM cards were handed over to him by some persons in Kano for onward delivery to their contacts in Dubai for monetary benefits.
One of the counts reads: “That you, Abubakar Ishaq, on or about 22nd August, 2020 at Lagos, within the judicial division of this Honorable Court, received and retained in your possession 10 ATM cards issued in the card holders, which cards you knew were taken or retained under circumstances which constitute card theft and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 34 of cybercrimes( Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act, 2015.”
Another count reads: “That you, Abubakar Ishaq, on or about 22nd August , 2020 at Lagos, within the judicial division of this Honorable Court, received an Access bank ATM card issue to one Alamin Bashir Babuga, which you know or ought to know to have been lost and which you retained possession with intent to traffic it to a person other than the card owner and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 33(4) of Cybercrimes( Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act , 2015.”
He pleaded “not guilty” to the charges when they were read to him.
In view of his plea, the prosecution counsel, S. Sulaiman, asked that the defendants be remanded in the Correctional Service.
The defence counsel, George Ochima, told the court of a pending application for bail for the defendant.
In his ruling, Justice Lifu granted the defendant bail in the sum of N50m, with two sureties in like sum, who must swear to an affidavit of means.
One of the sureties is to provide land ownership proof in Lagos, while the other must be a civil servant not below Grade Level 14.
The defendant was also ordered to surrender his travel documents to the court.
The judge ordered the defendant to be remanded in the Correctional Centre, Ikoyi, pending the fulfilment of his bail conditions.
The case has been adjourned to February 18, 2022, for commencement of trial.