It was a case of lawmaker-turns-lawbreaker, Monday, as Senator Umaru Tafida Argungu, who represented Kebbi Morth Senatorial District in the 6th Senate, was arraigned before Justice Mohammed Mohammed of the Sokoto State High Court for an alleged N419million fraud.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, arraigned Semator Argungu on a one- count charge of criminally misappropriating N419, 744, 612. 30 (Four Hundred and Nineteen Million, Seven Hundred and Forty-Four Thousand, Six Hundred and Twelve Naira, Thirty Kobo) of public funds belonging to the Sokoto State Government.
In the charge, the EFCC accused the former Senator of allegedly diverting the said sum, being an amount paid by the Sokoto State Government as 40 percent equity stake in Hijrah Investment Nigeria Limited, owners of Hijrah Textile Limited.
The Sokoto State Government, the charge further revealed, had entered into an agreement with Senator Argungu to buy a 40% stake in his company, Hijrah Investment Nigeria Limited, as part of its efforts to boost the state’s economy and create jobs.
But investigations by the anti-graft agency revealed that several withdrawals and transfers were made from the said account to individuals that were not connected to the objectives of turning around the company.
And when investigators visited the company, the discovered an entity in advanced stage of dilapidation and abandonment.
The charge reads: “That you Senator Umar Tafida while being the Chairman of Hijrah Textiles Company Limited and Hijrah Investment Nigeria Limited sometime between 2016 and 2017 at Sokoto within the jurisdiction of the High Court of Justice Sokoto State, being entrusted with the total sum of N419, 744, 612. 30 (Four Hundred and Nineteen Million, Seven Hundred and Forty Four Thousand, Six Hundred and Twelve Naira, Thirty Kobo) paid by the Sokoto State government, representing 40% investment of shareholding in your company to boost the economy of the state, dishonestly misappropriated the money in violation of the mode in which such trust was to be discharged and thereby committed Criminal Breach of Trust contrary to Section 311 of the Penal Code Law CAP 89, Laws of Northern Nigeria and punishable under Section 312 of the same Law”.
The former senator pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted bail in the sum of N50 million (Fifty Million Naira) and two sureties in like sum. The sureties, Justice Mohammed Mohammed ordered, must reside and have property within the jurisdiction of the Court. The judge further ruled that the defendant’s international passport be deposited with the Court.
The judge thereafter adjourned the case till March 18, 2021, for the commencement of trial.