By Innocent Anaba

LAGOS—Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, yesterday, arraigned President of Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr Paul Usoro, SAN, before a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, on a 10-count-charge of alleged N1.4 billion fraud.

newly elected President of the Nigeria Bar Association NBA, Paul Usoro, SAN
President of the Nigeria Bar Association NBA, Paul Usoro, SAN

He pleaded not guilty to the charge and was arraigned before Justice Sule Hassan.

Also named in the charge is Governor Udom  Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, who is described in the charge as  being “currently constitutionally immune from prosecution”; Akwa Ibom State’s Commissioner for Finance, Accountant-General and Attorney-General, Nsikan Nkan; Mfon Udomah, Uwemedimo Nwoko and Margaret Ukpe, who were said to be at large.

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Yesterday, when the matter came up for Usoro’s arraignment, the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo informed the court that his agency had a 10 count-charge against the NBA president, and same had been successful served on the defendant.

He urges the court to allow the charge to be read to the defendant for his plea to be taken.

Usoro’s lawyers led by Chief Wole Olanipekun, SAN, confirmed the service of the charge, but, however, told the court that after it had directed that the accused be served with the charge at the last adjourned date, the accused was asked to report to the commission’s office for service.

He said there, at the EFCC office, Usoro was kept for two hours before the charge was handed to him, while he acknowledged same, adding that he was kept at the EFCC for another two hours.

In a short ruling, Justice Hassan held: “I have listened to the submissions of counsel, and I have also read the letter written to the CJ. The issue in view is narrowed down to whether the defendant can take his plea in the circumstance.”

The court, consequently, called on the accused to take his plea on the charge.

Usoro pleaded not guilty to the charges.

After his plea, Olanipekun moved a bail application on behalf of the accused, urging the court to admit him to bail on liberal terms of self recognizance as President of the NBA.

The prosecutor did not oppose the application, but left same at the discretion of the court.

However, the court admitted Usoro to bail in the sum of N250 million, with one surety in like sum.

The court added that the surety must be owner of a landed property within the court’s jurisdiction,

The court ordered that the accused international passport also be deposited with the Court’s Deputy Chief Registrar, DCR, which will be verified if genuine.

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