A former Assistant Director in the Federal Civil Service, John Yakubu Yusuf, who was sentenced to six years imprisonment last year by the Court of Appeal for stealing about N24 billion from the Police Pension Funds, is reportedly enjoying his freedom.
But the acting spokesman for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Tony Orilade, when contacted, told newsmen on Friday that “the issue of John Yusuf is receiving attention and we shall speak when we have details on what actually happened.”
A source said that following a successful appeal that handed him a six-year jail term, in addition to a fine, it is surprising that Yusuf is not serving his jail term when it is not on record that he got a stay of execution order from the court.
This development, it was gathered, is a result of a cold feud between the EFCC and the Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS) over who ought to execute the Court of Appeal judgment against the convict.
Yusuf was in 2013 found guilty by Justice Abubakar Talba, then of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, and sentenced to two a year-jail term with an option of fine of N750,000, a decision which generated national and international outrage.
The lower court’s decision was, however, upturned by the Appeal Court on March 21, 2018 when the appellate court sentenced him to six years imprisonment and a fine totalling N22.9 billion.
The appellate court’s judgment followed an appeal by the EFCC which felt dissatisfied with the decision of the FCT High Court and prayed that the judgment of the lower court be set aside.
The appellate court unanimously held in its judgment that Yusuf pleaded guilty to three counts and thereby admitted to the conversion of an aggregate sum of N24 billion to his personal use.
The court further held that the sentence of the trial court did not serve as deterrent to the convict and others and, therefore, ruled that the sentence was “hereby quashed and deserves to be reviewed as follows: on Counts 17, the respondent is hereby sentenced to two years imprisonment with an addition of fine of N20 billion. On Counts 18, the respondent is hereby sentenced to two years imprisonment with an addition of fine of 1.4 billion. On counts 19, the respondent is hereby sentenced to two years imprisonment with an addition of fine of 1.5 billion.”
The sentence, the Appeal Court ordered, was to run concurently and the fine was to be cumulative.
However, more than a year after the judgment, reports said, the convict is yet to begin serving his prison term. It was learnt that this has generated a controversy between the two Federal Government agencies over whose function it is to execute the judgment.
A national newspaper on Friday quoted EFCC spokesman, Tony Orilade, as saying that, “After a successful appeal by the EFCC, the appellate court, on March 22, 2018, upturned Justice Mohammed Talba’s judgement and handed Yusuf a six-year jail term.
“If there is any question(s) on the whereabouts of the convict, it should not be directed at the EFCC but the relevant agency that should take custody of Yusuf,” Orilade said.
The EFCC’s spokesman said Yusuf was further asked to pay a fine of N20 billion, N1.4 billion and N1.5 billion on counts 17, 18 and 19, totalling N22.9 billion.
A source in the anti-graft agency, however, confided in one of newsmen that the issue was already causing controversy between the two government parastatals and subtly hinted that the whereabouts of the convict were unknown for now.
According to the source, “instead of you journalists to keep writing about this man, I think you can do better by finding out his exact whereabouts and come up with information on this and see if any actions will be taken or not.”
A lawyer in the chambers of Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) which prosecuted Yusuf up till the appellate court, when contacted by newsmen to speak on the issue, declined to comment officially, saying that he was not authorised to speak on it.
The source, however, confirmed that the chambers secured for EFCC, the conviction of the convict by the Appeal Court, saying that apart from the jail term and the N22.9 billion fine imposed by the appellate court, other properties and accounts containing some amounts were seized from Yusuf.
He said further that the convict, however, filed an appeal at the Supreme Court to challenge the Appeal Court decision and also filed a stay of execution.
He, however, stressed that the stay of execution was not taken since “it does not apply to criminal matter. Once you are convicted, you have to go and serve your term.”
In his own reaction, the spokesman of the Nigerian Prisons Service (NPS), Francis Enobore, was quoted in the media as saying that it was the duty of the prosecuting agency, with powers of arrest, to ensure that a person against whom it secured conviction and sentence is delivered to the prison authorities, along with the decision of the court.
In other words, the EFCC was supposed to have delivered Yusuf to the prison authorities to serve his jail term.
In his response, the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Justice, Dayo Apata, told newsmen that the prosecution was by the EFCC and there was the need to read the judgment and the court proceedings before making comments.
For example, he said, “What transpired after the conviction? Was there an appeal against the judgment of the Court of Appeal? Was there a bail application pending the appeal, etc?
“You will agree with me that there is the need to read and appreciate the judgment and to understand the legal status of the matter before comments,” Apata stated.