N33bn fraud: Former Minister of Power, Saleh Mamman, collapses in court

There was mild drama at a Federal High Court in Abuja today July 11, after the former Minister of Power under the Buhari-led administration, Saleh Mamman, collapsed just before his case was called up by the court.

Mamman who served in office from 2019 to 2021, is standing trial over a 12-court bordering on money laundering to the tune of N33 billion while he was in office. On May 10, 2021, he was arrested and detained at the headquarters of the anti-graft agency in Abuja. On September 1, 2021, Buhari sacked Mamman. He was accused of conspiring with staff of the ministry in charge of the accounts of the Zungeru and Mambilla Hydro Electric Power projects to divert about N22 billion. The investigations uncovered property in Nigeria and overseas allegedly linked to the suspects, while millions of naira and dollars had reportedly been recovered. 

Shortly before he was called for arraignment this morning, the former Minister’s counsel, Femi Ate, SAN, told the presiding judge, Justice James Omotosho, that his client had collapsed.

“Upon being brought into the premises of the court, he collapsed and had to be resuscitated and treated by the medical personnel of the Federal High Court,” Ate told the court

He said his client was served with the charge after he was resuscitated. The senior lawyer said he sought the understanding of Olumide-Fusika who is EFCC’s counsel in the matter for an adjournment so that the arraignment could be done on Monday next week when his client would have been okay.

The judge however mentioned that due to the workload in the court dockets, the arraignment could only be fixed for September ending. The former Minister’s counsel then withdrew the oral application for an adjournment. Olumide-Fusika said he had just filed an amended charge earlier in the morning following a mistake in the name of the defendant and prayed to the court that the fresh charge be read to Mamman to take his plea, but Justice Omotosho disagreed with him.

The judge, however, asked Mamman if he was fit enough to take his plea today, and he responded in the affirmative. The former minister explained to the court that he collapsed outside the courtroom because of the drugs he took when he had not eaten, and while he was outside the courtroom waiting to be called, his blood pressure dropped.

Mamman, however, said he was fit to continue with the arraignment.

“It can happen to anyone,” the judge said

The ex-minister told the court that he called the attention of his lawyer to the error made by the EFCC on the name in the charge served on him.

“I was complaining about the name, that it was not my own,” he said

Justice Omotosho then stepped down the arraignment until 1 pm today.