July 17, 2023

Alleged N5bn fraud: Court fixes July 21 for Sen. Stella Oduah’s arraignment 

Stella Oduah

A Federal High Court, Abuja has fixed July 21 for the arraignment of Sen. Stella Oduah and others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Justice Inyang Ekwo fixed the date after EFCC’s counsel, Hassan Liman, SAN, prayed the court to allow the defendants to take their plea, having filed the charge against them on Dec. 17, 2020.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the EFCC had sued Oduah alongside Gloria Odita, Nwosu Emmanuel Nnamdi and Chukwuma Irene Chinyere.

Others include Global Offshore and Marine Ltd, Tip Top Global Resources Ltd, Crystal Television Ltd, Sobora International Ltd and others.

The senator, who represented Anambra North Senatorial District at the 9th National Assembly, was scheduled to be arraigned on alleged N5 billion fraud and financial misappropriation while she served as Minister during the Jonathan Administration.

In the 25-count charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/316/2020, they are accused of conspiracy, money laundering and maintaining anonymous bank accounts with a commercial bank.

Upon resumed hearing, Liman said that on June 15, the court drew the attention of counsel to a letter or petition written to the chief justice of Nigeria against Justice Ekwo and the judge gave a directive to the EFCC to carry out an investigation with a view to unravel the identity of the persons.

He said the commission had carried out the investigation and was able to trace the identity of the person via the telephone number.

According to the lawyer, he is said to be one Mr Okolo Obinna Johnson, a promoter of two companies.
He said the effort was made through the search and linked BVN of the alleged person via the telephone number submitted and that the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) cooperated with the EFCC.
However, Liman said that the anti-graft agency made all efforts to track the physical person, in conjunction with other security agencies, but were yet to be successful.

“This is how far the commission has gone in carrying out the directive of the court,” he said.
He assured that the EFCC would not leave any stone unturned in bringing the culprit to book.

A Defence lawyer, Chief Kanu Agabi, SAN, said he would not be silent when the court was threatened.
“No one should threaten our judges. It is up to the work of the judges that this country continues to survive,” he said.

Ogwu James, SAN, said that the issue was not about the petition but the contact they made with the court.

He said though anybody had the right to write petition, sending a message to the court was the issue.

The EFCC’s lawyer then said that the commission had gotten the call log of the number through their investigation.

The judge, who wondered how the person got his phone number, said, “That character was sending messages to me, thereby, breaching my privacy.”

Justice Ekwo, who said that the order to arrest the person was still subsisting, said “The order found him, bring him to court and let me deal with the matter.”

He said the order given to the deputy chief registrar, Litigation of the court to get the certified particulars of another organisation involved in the matter at CAC had been carried out.

He asked if there was anybody representing the organisation in the court but no one stood up.

The judge then said that the organisation’s letter, the phone number and their names would be given to the EFCC so as to arrest them and bring them to court.

He expressed displeasure in the manner the trial was allowed to degenerate, saying “The court is never without an option, but out of respect to you, I will not take those options.”
He said that the matter would be tried and tried to conclusion.

Justice Ekwo held that any defendants that is not in court anytime the matter is fixed for trial, would be ordered to be arrested and remanded in detention.

Liman, therefore, appealed that the defendants be ordered to take their plea, even as the investigation continued with the persons behind the letter and the text messages.

But all the defence lawyers disagreed, saying the matter was adjourned for report.
The judge consequently adjourned the matter until July 21 for a plea