Immigration Recruitment Scandal: Court frees Abba Moro, convicts co-accused

By Wandoo Sombo

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Thursday, acquitted Sen. Abba Moro, former Interior Minister of charges bordering on abuse of office and procurement fraud.

The court, however, convicted a former Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Mrs Anastasia Daniel-Nwobia of complacency in the 2014 botched Nigeria Immigration Service, (NIS) recruitment.

Daniel-Nwobia was prosecuted alongside Moro and others in relation to the recruitment which led to the death of 15 people.

Delivering judgment, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba said that he found her guilty in count four of the charge and convicted her accordingly.

Count four bordered on awarding contract for online recruitment into the NIS without seeking approval of the Bureau for Public Procurement.

This, according to the charge, is contrary to Section 40 of the Public Procurement Act No. 65;of 2007 and punishable under Section 58 of the same act.Justice Dimgba, however, deferred sentencing of the retired permanent secretary to April 27.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the penalty stipulated for such an offence is five years imprisonment without an option of fine.The judge, however, discharged and acquitted Moro and Femi Alaiyebami, a Deputy Director in the Ministry of Interior on the remaining counts 2, 4, 5 and 11.

They had  earlier been discharged and acquitted  on seven out of the 11 counts they were originally charged with.Other defendants in the suit are  Mahmood Ahmadu (at large), and the contracting firm, Drexel Tech. Nigeria Ltd.The judge held that the prosecution had failed to establish its case up to the requisite legal standard to warrant the conviction of all the defendants on all of the counts.

According to the judge, I see nothing in the evidence before me to suggest that the first defendant (Moro) abused the authority of his office in the manner alleged in count 11.

The judge faulted the role of the Comptroller- General of the NIS  saying he should have taken absolute charge of the exercise.“I believe some flak should be reserved for PW1, who as the head of NIS, was away from duty at a most critical day in the life of the agency.

“It is in evidence that the PW1, who as the head of the affected agency, whose recruitment was being conducted should have taken absolute charge to ensure that things did not fall through the cracks.

“He appeared to have taken a very passive and distant approach to the exercise.”

He was attending a social event in Jos on the very day when he, as the head of NIS, was supposed to be on top of the situation to monitor that the exercise went smoothly.”

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) charged Moro who was then Minister of Interior, and others to court on an 11-count charge bordering on abuse of office, obtaining by false pretence, procurement fraud and money laundering.

They were arraigned for their roles in the botched March 15, 2014 immigration recruitment on Feb. 29, 2016 and re-arraigned on May 11, 2016 and they had all pleaded not guilty to the charges.The court in a ruling on June 25, 2020, sustained their no case submission in relation to counts 1,3,6,7,8,9 and 10 of the charge.

The defendants allegedly defrauded 675,675  applicants of N675,675,000, with each of the applicants made to pay N1,000 to access an e-portal to apply for the immigration job.The prosecution closed its case with 12 witnesses and 57 documentary exhibits on Nov. 25, 2019. (NAN)