….as court shifts case till Oct 12
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
Planned arraignment of a former Minister of Aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah and eight others accused of complicity in money laundering, was on Tuesday, stalled before the Federal High Court in Abuja, following a letter from the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN.
The prosecuting counsel, Dr. Hassan Liman, SAN, had shortly after the case was called up for arraignment of the defendants, notified the court that he received a letter from the office of the AGF in relation to the case.
According to Liman, SAN, Malami, in the letter dated May 6, disclosed that his office was still reviewing the facts of the case.
However, the AGF, said the court could proceed with the trial, pending the outcome of the review.
The prosecuting counsel, therefore, prayed the court to order the former Minister and her co-defendants to enter their plea to the charge which he noted was filed since December 17, 2020.
Decrying that no headway had been made in the case owing to a petition the defendants forwarded to the office of the AGF, Liman, SAN, argued that in line with section 396(1) and (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, 2015, objection to challenge a charge could only be raised after plea had been taken.
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Meanwhile, the defence lawyers, led by Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, and Ogwu Onoja, SAN, said they were yet to receive a copy of the AGF’s letter.
In a bench ruling, trial Justice Inyang Ekwo, said he was not comfortable with the AGF’s letter.
He said the matter would be adjourned to enable the AGF to take a definite position in order for the court not to embark on an exercise that may be in futility at the end.
“I am going to give you a date for trial, believing that before then, you must have come with a clear directive from the AGF”, Justice Ekwo held.
He subsequently adjourned the matter till October 12 for trial.
Oduah, who served as Aviation Minister from 2011 to 2014, and currently the Senator representing Anambra North, is facing a 25-count money laundering charge the EFCC preferred against her and eight others.
Other defendants in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/316/20, are Gloria Odita, Nwosu Emmanuel Nnamdi, Chukwuma Irene Chinyere, Global Offshore and Marine Ltd, Tip Top Global Resources Ltd, Crystal Television Ltd and Sobora International Ltd.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alleged that the defendants conspired and laundered funds to the tune of about 7.9bn.
EFCC, in the charge, alleged that Oduah and Odita who was identified as her aid and the Company Secretary to Sea Petroleum & Gas Company Ltd (SPGC), in February 2014, used their positions to transfer the sum of N1,629,250,000.00 from I-Sec Security Nig. Ltd account No. 2021756955 with First Bank Plc, to Global Offshore and Marine Ltd account No. 2022977296 also domiciled with First Bank Plc, which money they reasonably ought to have known that it formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.
Oduah and Odita were accused of opening a naira “anonymous Private Banking Nominee Account No. 2024414450 with First Bank Plc and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 11(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (As Amended) and punishable under Section 11(4) (a) of the same Act.”
They were, equally accused of opening a United State dollar “anonymous Private Banking Nominee account No. 2024414498 with First Bank Plc and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 11(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (As Amended) and punishable under Section 1 1(4) (a) of the same Act.”