The governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Niger, Umar Nasko and the state’s former governor, Babangida Aliyu were on Thursday re-arraigned before a Minna high court for alleged fraud.
The duo are standing trial alongside the state PDP chairman, Tanko Beji over alleged N4.568 fraud bordering on diversion of ecological funds.
The case was initially handled by Justice Aliyu Mayaki and adjourned until March 4.
It was, however, re-assigned to the state high court under Justice Mohammed Mohammed who started the case afresh on Thursday.
When the charges were read to the accused persons, they all pleaded not guilty.
Mohammed asked the accused persons to continue with their previous bail granted by Justice Aliyu Mayaki and to submit their international passports to the court registry.
He thereafter adjourned the matter until Feb. 21 and Feb. 22 for hearing.
NAN reports that the PDP had on Wednesday in a statement signed by the Director, Communications of the Nasko Campaign Organisation, Yahaya Usman, alleged that the change of the trial judge was a calculated attempt to pervert the course of Justice’
“This is a well orchestrated plan sponsored and oiled by the Niger state government.
“The plan is to use the courts to re-enact, re-start afresh the ongoing trial of Dr Muazu Babangida Aliyu, Umar Nasko, Tanko Beji, and a few other PDP leaders, which has been on since 2016.”
Usman had also expressed concerns over the shift in the date for continuation of the case, adding that the plan was to re-arraign its candidate and others and deny them bail until after the elections.
“With Justice Maiyaki out and a new Judge in, the plan now is to re-arraign/arraign the three and others in the opposition, issue difficult bail conditions even though they are on bail and have never breached it.
“Then they will be detained from that 14th which is a Thursday till the elections, which will be held on the 16th of February and 2nd of March, are over.
“This is unacceptable and a total and clear circumvention of the course of justice and we call on men of good reason to rise against this plan.”
However in a swift reaction on Wednesday, Mr Jonathan Vatsa, the chairman of the Media and Publicity Committee of the Gov. Abubakar Bello campaign organisation, distanced the state government from the issue
“We have not been involved in this case since it started, we cannot now be involved.
“The PDP should stop chasing shadows, it should not hang its problem on the APC.
“Our major preoccupation now is the campaign for the reelection of President Muhammad Buhari, governor Abubakar Bello and all other APC candidates
“We will not allow ourselves to be distracted,” he added.