By Onozure Dania
Former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, Professor Maurice Iwu, on Thursday, asked a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos to transfer the N1.2 billion fraud case preferred against by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC, to the Abuja division of Federal High Court.
Counsel to Iwu, Ahamed Raji(SAN), told Justice Nicolas Oweibo that the transfer was necessary so as not to subject the defendant to great hardship.
He said that Iwu resides in Abuja, but always travelled down to Lagos whenever the case comes up.
In his words: “My Lord, this defendant is over 70 years of age, and he always travelled down to Lagos whenever the case comes up and book hotel. It will amount to great agony for him to continue with this trial in Lagos.”
Iwu also said the transaction that led to this charge was done in Abuja, therefore the case was supposed to be heard in Abuja.
Counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, prayed the court to refuse the application because all the witnesses listed in the proof of evidence reside in Lagos and Ibadan; more so, it’s the Lagos Zonal office of EFCC that investigated the case.
Oyedepo submitted that all the banks officials listed in the proof of evidence to testify and the documents to be tendered were in Lagos.
He said that the offence for which the defendant was charged touched on the economic wellbeing of Nigeria, thereby such offence can be tried anywhere in the country.
The prosecution also cited the provision of Section 98 of administration of Criminal Justice Act, which states that only the Chief Judge has power to transfer any matter.
Justice Nicholas Oweibo, after listening to both parties, adjourned the case to March 6 for ruling.
Iwu is facing a three-count charge of fraud and money laundering brought against him by the anti-graft commission.
He was first arraigned on August 8, 2019, before Justice Chuka Obiozor also of the Federal High Court, Lagos, but was granted a N1 billion bail after pleading not guilty to the charges.
Following the transfer of the case to Oweibo, Iwu was re-arraigned by the anti-graft commission on October 24, 2019.
EFCC said that Iwu committed the alleged offences from December 2014 to March 27, 2015.