ICYMI

March 4, 2024

Ex-Anambra gov, Obiano asks court to quash EFCC’s charge against him

We have forgiven you wholeheartedly, Towns People tell Obiano

By Ikechukwu Nnochiri, ABUJA

The immediate past governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano, on Monday, challenged the competence of the nine-count money laundering charge the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, preferred against him.

In the motion he filed through his team of lawyers led by Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN) the former governor maintained that the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court lacked the jurisdiction to try him over offences that were allegedly committed in Anambra State.

He, therefore, prayed the court to dismiss the charge against him for want of jurisdiction.

However, counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir (SAN), requested for time to react to the motion, which he said was just served on him by the defendant.

Besides, the prosecution counsel noted that the Supreme Court had, on different occasions, held that once a charge borders on money laundering, it could be filed before the Federal High Court which would have the jurisdiction to try it.

Trial Justice Inyang Ekwo adjourned the matter till March 7 to hear the motion.

Arrest

It will be recalled that Obiano, who piloted the affairs of Anmabra State from March 2014 to March 2022, was first arrested at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport, Lagos, on March 17, 2022, as he was preparing to board a flight to Houston, the United States of America.

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The arrest took place few hours after he left office as governor.

The EFCC alleged that he looted over N4 billion from the Anambra State treasury.

The agency alleged that the funds were siphoned from Anambra State’s Security Vote Account, converted into dollars and handed to Obiano in cash.

For instance, the prosecuting agency told the court that from March 2014 to March 2022 when Obiano was in office as governor, between February 16, 2018 and March 9, 2018, in Abuja, made cash transaction through a non-financial institution by instructing one Uzuegbuna Okagbue, his then Chief Protocol Officer/Deputy Chief of Staff, to transfer over N223 million from the Anambra State Government Security Vote Account, into Connought International Services Limited, which was converted to the equivalent of $600,000 and collected same in cash from one Ayuba Tanko.

He was said to had between October 30, 2018 and November 13, 2018, made cash transaction through a non-financial institution by instructing Okagbue to transfer the sum of N95 million from Anambra State Government Security Vote, into the account of S. Y. Panda, which was converted to $260, 000 and handed to him in cash.

However, upon his arraignment on January 24, the former governor pleaded not guilty to the charge, even as he was released on bail.

As part of his bail conditions, the court seized his passport.

EFCC told the court that it has lined up 15 witnesses to testify in the matter.

The EFCC charges against Obìano

Some of the counts in the charge against the former governor, marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/15/2024, read: “That you, Chief Willie Maduabuchi Obiano, whilst being the executive governor of Anambra State of Nigeria between March 2014 – March 2022, sometime between 7th February, 2018 to 18th February, 2019 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, indirectly transferred through Mr Willie Nwokoye, your then principal private secretary, the sum of N156,800,000 only from the Anambra State Government Security Vote account into the account belonging to C.I. Patty Ventures Nigeria Limited (an entity that had no business relationship with the Anambra State Government), which funds were dissipated for purposes unrelated / unconnected with the security affairs of Anambra State, which you reasonably ought to have known that such funds formed part of the proceeds of your unlawful act, to wit: (Stealing and Corruption) and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 (2) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) in 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.

“That you, Chief Willie Maduabuchi Obiano, whilst being the executive governor of Anambra State of Nigeria between March 2014 — March 2022, sometime between 9th August, 2017 to 4th March, 2020 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, indirectly transferred through Mr Willie Nwokoye, your then principal private secretary, the sum of N261,268,585.00 only from the Anambra State Government Security Vote account to an account belonging to Easy Diamond Integrated Link (an entity that had no business relationship with the Anambra State Government), which funds were dissipated for purposes unrelated / unconnected with the security affairs of Anambra State, which you reasonably ought to have known that such funds formed part of the proceeds of your unlawful act, to wit: (Stealing and Corruption) and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 (2) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) in 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”