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N5.2bn scam: Elumelu, Ugbane, others must take plea — Court

* As counsel opposes EFCC

By Emma Ovuakporie

ABUJA—Justice Umar Garba of the Federal High Court, Abuja, yesterday ruled that Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, Senator Nicholas Ugbane and seven other accused persons in the Rural Electrification Agency, REA, contract scam are to take their plea in the amended charges preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

The other seven who are being prosecuted in the new amended charges are: the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Power, Abdulahi Aliyu; the Managing Director, REA, Samuel Gekpe, Simon Nanle, Lawrence Orekoya; Abdulsamad Jahun; Kayode Oyedeji, and Mohammed Jibo.

The accused persons are facing an amended 85 count charge over their alleged involvement in the N5.2 billion fraud in the Rural Electrification Agency contract scam .

Prosecution Counsel, Godwin Obla at the resumed hearing yesterday, told the court that all the accused persons had been served with the amended charges.

Obla said the application for amended charge was in pursuant of section 163 of the Criminal Procedure Act, CPA.
He also cited the Supreme Court ruling in the case of Uwuru Vs. the State as reported in 2002 (9) NWLR page 90, especially page 103- paragraph B-8

But reacting to the application, counsel to Engr Sam Gekpe, who is the 1st accused, Barrister Bernard Afu, who held brief for Paul Iroko, SAN, told the court that the amended count charge dated 26 January 2010 was one too many. He also argued that the accused could not take plea as they do not understand the content of the charges against them.

“It is within the ambit of the law for the accused persons to peruse through the charges and understand their offences before taking a plea; that is not however, to say I am opposing the EFCC application”, Afu said. All the other defence lawyers aligned with the position of Afu.

Not moved by the position of the defence counsel, Obla told the court that he was ready with the prosecution.

The presiding judge, Justice Garba after listening to both counsel, adjourned the case till the 18th and 19th of February for taking of plea and continuation of hearing.


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