How Top Nigerian politician lied, deceived U.S. court

The newly appointed Director-General of the Lagos State Safety Commission, Hakeem Dickson, was economical with the truth when he told a U.S. District Court that he had served his prison sentence in Nigeria, PREMIUM TIMES can confirm.

By Ben Ezeamalu

Mr. Dickson, a former Internal Auditor at the now defunct Nigeria Airways, was appointed head of the state’s Safety Commission by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode on October 4.

His appointment, which is subject to confirmation by the State House of Assembly, came despite evidence that he fled from the U.S. in 1992 after being convicted for credit card fraud and sentenced to 24 months in prison.

Judge Dickinson Debevoise of a U.S. District Court held, in 2012, that Mr. Dickson had not served a 24 month sentence imposed on him in June 1992.

“For 20 years, Defendant successfully evaded all United States government efforts to locate and arrest him,” Judge Debevoise stated in a judgment made public by Sahara Reporters.

Convicted for fraud

On June 14, 1991, Mr. Dickson, also a U.S. citizen, was arrested on a complaint of bank and credit card fraud.

Four months later, he pleaded guilty to Count One of a four-count indictment which charged that from August 29, 1990, to September 10, 1990, he “knowingly and willfully executed and attempted to execute” a scheme to defraud a federally insured institution in violation of U.S. laws.

On June 25, 1992, Mr. Dickson was sentenced to 24-month jail term, to be followed by a term of supervised release of three years.

He was also ordered to repay $14,400.

The judge fixed August 3, 1992 for his voluntary surrender, despite opposition from the U.S. government, the plaintiff in the suit.

“The government had urged at sentencing that Defendant be remanded forthwith or at least surrender to the Bureau of Prisons no later than the following Monday, June 29, 1992,” the judge said.

“The court noted that while on bail Defendant returned on three occasions after being given permission to leave the country.

“The Court also took account of Defendant’s wish to spend more time with his one-year-old son, who suffered severe medical problems. Thus the August 3, 1992, surrender date.”

But on August 3, 1992, Mr. Dickson was nowhere to be found in the U.S., forcing the judge to revoke his bail and issue a warrant for his arrest.

Twenty years later, on January 27, 2012, Mr. Dickson, filed a motion seeking to adjust his sentence of 24 months incarceration in the U.S. by claiming that he had already served 17 months on the same sentence in a Lagos prison.

In his motion, Mr. Dickson claimed that a series of events after his sentencing, preceded by violent clashes between Muslims and Christians in Lagos, forced him to disobey the August 3 surrender date.

“During these clashes, two of Defendant’s sisters were killed and the family home was burned to the ground,” the judge quoted Mr. Dickson as claiming, in his judgment dated May 12, 2012.

“Following his sentencing Defendant returned to Lagos to bury his sisters, assess the damage to his father’s house and to take his mother for treatment.

“When Defendant arrived in Lagos, he was arrested at the airport and was told that since he was convicted in the United States he would also serve time in Nigeria. He was retained in custody until December 10, 1993, a total of 17 months.”

No record in Nigerian prisons

PREMIUM TIMES’ investigations showed that the Nigerian Prisons Services does not have any record of Mr. Dickson serving a jail time between 1992 and 1993.

“There is no name like that in our record,” a top Prisons source told this newspaper.

“We checked both our Lagos and Abuja records.”

When asked if a prisoner can do time using a different name, Francis Enobore, Nigerian Prisons’ spokesperson, painted all the possible scenarios.

“Normally, if a prisoner is being transferred from any other country to Nigeria, to serve the remaining part of his or her sentence, the person will be accompanied with valid documents,” Mr. Enobore, a Deputy Controller of Prisons, said.

“So the name the person bore in the primary country of conviction will still be the name the person will use in Nigeria.

“The only condition where you may have an inmate bearing different names is where we have all these recidivists – all these people that go to prison and come and then the following day he’s going back, for different offences.

“You can see a recidivist – we call them jailbird – one person will have close to five different names. For theft he will have a different name, he’ll go to prison A. By the time he comes out and commits another crime, he’s going to prison B, he’s bearing a different name.

“If you see him in prison C on a different offence, he’s bearing a different name.”

Mr. Enobore said an individual convicted overseas and being transferred to Nigeria would be accompanied by his biodata and other relevant documents.

“If he escaped in the US and he was arrested in Lagos for the same offence, whoever is arresting him will arrest him based on the information he got from the US government, which will involve his name, the offence he committed, his address, everything they have about him,” Mr. Enobore said.

“If he was arrested in Lagos for a different offence, yes it is absolutely possible for him to bear a different name.

“If it’s the same offence….because the person arresting him, on what basis is he going to arrest him? They are going to arrest him based on the evidence of the document they gave to them from the US, that so and so person is on the ‘wanted’ list.”

PREMIUM TIMES had continually reached out to the Lagos State government through Steve Ayorinde, the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, to know if the administration was aware of Mr. Dickson’s antecedents before his appointment.

Repeated phone calls were not answered and text messages sent over the past two weeks were unreplied.

Efforts were made to reach Mr. Dickson but he did not respond to phone calls on the number which listed him as the owner of the line. A visit to the address listed for his company -1 Mayor Hakeem Olaogun Dickson Drive, Admiralty Way, Lekki Phase 1 – showed that only Hakeem Dickson Road exists in the area, and there’s no building on Number One Hakeem Dickson Road.

“Even us, we have been looking for this Number One since we came here,” a business owner at Number Two Hakeem Dickson Road had said.

The building just before Number Three on the street is a residential home. A domestic servant in the compound told PREMIUM TIMES their address is Number Two Hakeem Dickson Road.

The Lagos State House of Assembly is currently on recess, and it is not clear if the members are aware of Mr. Dickson’s criminal records.

Bose Lambo, Head of Information at the Assembly complex, said she was not the appropriate person to speak on the matter.

But a source in the House said members would “definitely ask” Mr. Dickson questions during his screening for the Safety Commission post.

“He has not been screened,” said the source who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on such issues.

“But he’s still coming. The governor will send a letter to the House.”

Turned down by judge

Following his claim of release from Kirikiri Prison in 1993, Mr. Dickson immersed himself in public office, contesting and winning an election as Chairman of Surulere Local Government between 1998 and 2004.

He later served as Special Adviser to then Minister of Works, Oluseye Ogunseye, for four years, before being appointed Special Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Mr. Dickson also served as a committee chairman of All Local Governments of Nigeria (ALGON) for the drafting of laws, regulations and punishments for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission.

He is currently the CEO of Citiwide Construction and Transport Nigeria Limited which specializes in the construction of roads and buildings.

“Considering the nature of Defendant’s criminal activities in the United States, these are remarkable posts for Defendant to have held,” Judge Debevoise had noted in 2012.

“Defendant now owns a factory which manufacture concrete blocks, paving stones and kerbs, employing 20 people.

“It is on the basis of these facts that Defendant seeks to credit the 17 months he served in Nigeria against the 24 months sentence imposed in the United States on June 25, 1992.

“Although Defendant’s request has a certain common sense appeal, he has found no basis for it in the law.”

The judge said Mr. Dickson made no request for leave before departing the U.S. in 1992, adding that the American government informed the court in September of that year that the convict had failed to surrender as ordered, and attempts to locate him were unsuccessful.

“The Court entered an Order revoking Defendant’s bail and issuing a warrant for his arrest,” said Mr. Debevoise.

“For the next 20 years Defendant successfully evaded all government efforts to locate and arrest him.

“The newly filed January 27, 2012 motion purports to fill the void. Defendant spent 17 months of the period in prison because of his United States conviction, and then went on to lead a successful political and business life.”

Section 18 of the US Constitution 3585(b) under which Mr. Dickson seeks credit for the 17 months he spent in prison in Nigeria, provides:

‘Credit for prior custody. A defendant shall be given credit toward the service of a term of imprisonment for any time he has spent in official detention prior to the date the sentence commences –

‘(1) as a result of the offense for which the sentence was imposed; or
‘(2) as a result of any other charge for which the defendant was arrested after the commission of the offense for which the sentence was imposed; that has not been credited against another sentence.’

“There is a serious question whether Defendant comes within the plain meaning of this provision,” the judge said.

“It is doubtful whether the 17 months imprisonment was ‘a result of the [scheme to defraud a federally insured institution] for which the [June 25, 1992] sentence was imposed’ or ‘as a result of any other charge for which [Defendant] was arrested after the commission of the offense for which the [June 25, 1992 sentence] was imposed.’”

The judge further noted that the authority to grant Mr. Dickson’s requests rests solely with the Attorney General, acting through the Bureau of Prisons.

“For 20 years, Defendant successfully evaded all United States government efforts to locate and arrest him,” Mr. Debevoise said.

“He has not served the 24 months sentence lawfully imposed upon him in June 1992. The law forbids granting the relief he seeks, and the equities of the situation point to no other outcome.

“The motion will be denied. The court will file an order consistent with the foregoing.”

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