Chief Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources.

ABUJA — Former Governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Timipre Sylva, yesterday, took fresh plea over a six-count criminal charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. Sylva is facing trial over allegation that he masterminded the illegal diversion of funds from the Bayelsa State treasury while he was in power. He was specifically accused of siphoning over N6.5 billion from the Bayelsa State treasury between October 2009 and February 2010.

EFCC had earlier identified three persons whose bank accounts it said was used as conduit pipes for illicit transfer of funds which it said that Sylva secured through loan from Union Bank Plc in the name of the Bayelsa State government.

Names of the said accomplices were given as Habibu Sani Maigidia, a Bureau de Change operator with Account no. 221433478108, in Fin Bank, Plc; Enson Benmer Limited with Account No. 6152030001946, in FirstBank Plc and one John Daukoru with Account no. 04800250000418, in United Bank for Africa Plc.

Meantime, Sylva who was previously arraigned before the court on June 5, 2012, pleaded not guilty to all the six-count charge against him. His prosecution commenced de-novo (afresh), following the retirement of the former trial Judge in the matter, Justice Adamu Bello. Shortly after the embattled ex-governor took his plea yesterday, the new trial Judge, Justice Evoh Chukwu, allowed him to go home on bail on the same conditions that were ab-initio stipulated by the court.

Nevertheless, before adjourning the case till May 25, Justice Chukwu ordered Sylva to surrender all his international passports to the Registrar of the high court. The court had earlier granted the accused person bail in the sum of N100million, even as he was compelled to produce someone resident in Abuja to stand surety for him. The court maintained that the surety must be an owner of a landed property worth the bail sum, just as it directed the court registrar to verify the authenticity of the title deed of the property before okaying release of the accused person from the grips of the EFCC.

The accused was further warned not to leave the shores of Nigeria without firstly securing the consent of the court, stressing that the breach of any of the conditions would amount to an immediate revocation of his bail. Sylva is equally answering to another 42-count charge pending before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the same high court, wherein he was alongside six others, accused of pilfering the sum of N19.2billion from the public tilt.

Some of the charge preferred against him yesterday read: “That you, Timipre Sylva, as Governor of Bayelsa State, with others now at large, sometime between October,2009 and February, 2010, at various places in Nigeria, including Abuja,within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court did conspire to commit a crime to wit:

conversion of properties and resources amounting to N2,000,000,000.00 (Two Billion Naira) belonging to Bayelsa State Government and derived from an illegal act, with the aim of concealing the illicit origin of the said amount and you therebycommitted an offence contrary to Section17(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act), 2004 and punishable under Section 14(1) of the same Act.

“That you, Timipre Sylva, as Governor of Bayelsa State, with others now at large, on or about the 22nd of January, 2010, at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, converted the sum of N380,000,000.00(Three Hundred and Eighty Million Naira), property of the Bayelsa State Government, through the account of one Habibu Sani Maigidia,

a Bureau De Change Operator with Account No. 221433478108, in FinBank, Plc, which sum you knew represented the proceeds of an illegal act with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds of the said illegal act and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act)2004 and also punishable under section14(1) of the same Act.

“That you, Timipre Sylva, as Governor of Bayelsa State, with others now at large, on or about the 5th of February, 2010, at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, converted the sum of N50,000,000.00(Fifty Million Naira), property of the Bayelsa State Government, through the account of one Enson Benmer Limited with Account No. 6152030001946,in First Bank, Plc,

which sum you knew represented the proceeds of an illegal act with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds of the said illegal act and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 14(1)of the Money Laundering (ProhibitionAct) 2004 and also punishable under section 14(1) of the same Act.

“That you, Timipre Sylva, as Governor of Bayelsa State, with others now at large, on or about the 5th of February, 2010, at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the Federal HighCourt, converted the sum of N20,000,000.00(Twenty Million Naira), property of the Bayelsa State Government, through the account of one John Daukoru with Account No. 04800250000418, in United Bank for Africa,

Plc, which sumyou knew represented the proceeds of an illegal act with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds of the said illegal act and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 14(1)of the Money Laundering (ProhibitionAct) 2004 and also punishable under section 14(1) of the same Act.

“That you, Timipre Sylva, as Governor of Bayelsa State, with others now at large, sometime between October,2009 and February, 2010, at various places in Nigeria, including Abuja,within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court did conspire to commit a crime to wit: inducing Union Bank, Plc, with the intent to defraud, to deliver to Bayelsa State Government the sum of N2,000,000,000.00 (Two Billion Naira),

under the false pretence of using the amount to augment salaries of the Bayelsa State Government and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 8(a) and punishable under section 1(3) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2004.

“That you, Timipre Sylva, as Governor of Bayelsa State, with others now at large, sometime between October,2009 and February, 2010, at various places in Nigeria, including Abuja,within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court induced Union Bank, Plc, with the intent to defraud,

to grant an overdraft facility of the sum of N2,000,000,000.00 (Two Billion Naira) to the Bayelsa State Government under the false pretence of using the amount to augment salaries of the Bayelsa State Government and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(1)(b) of the Advance Fee Fraud and other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2004 and punishable under section 1(3) of the same Act.”

Culled from Vanguard