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Absence Of Judge Stalls Trial Of Saraki’s Aide, Others

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The trial of Gbenga Makanjuola, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki,  and two others accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of an alleged N3.5 billion fraud was yesterday stalled due to the absence of the trial judge, Justice Babs Kuewumi.

Makanjuola was arraigned before the Federal High Court in Lagos by the EFCC alongside Obiorah Amobi and a limited company, Melrose General Services Limited on October 7 on an 11-count charge of conspiracy and fraud.

When the matter came up for hearing on Tuesday, both the prosecution represented by Ekene Iheanacho and the defence team led by Paul Erokoro (SAN), were present in court.

They were, however, informed by the court registrar that the court will not be sitting because the Judge is attending a seminar outside the state.

The case has been adjourned till January 10, 2019 for the commencement of trial.

In the charge, the accused were alleged to have committed the offence in December 2016.

They were said to have conspired to disguise the unlawful origin of the sum of N3.5 billion paid into the account of Melrose General Services Ltd.

According to the prosecution, the accused took control of the sum which was transferred from the Nigeria’s Governors Forum’s account, operated by Melrose.

The prosecution said that the accused ought to have known that the sum represented proceeds of unlawful activities.

The anti-graft agency told the court that the third accused, Obiora Amobi, who is the operation manager of Melrose General Services between December 15 and 17, 2016 made a cash payment of N300 million to Robert Mbonu  (now at large) from the said N3.5 billion, without going through financial institution.

It was also alleged that Saraki’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Makanjuola and the Cashier in the Senate President’s office,  Shittu, had in December 2016, made cash payment of a total of $1.5 million of $500, 000, in three tranches, between themselves without going through a financial institution.

The offences according to the EFCC are contrary to 18, 15(2)(d), 15(2)(b) 1(a) and 16(2)(b) of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under Sections 15(3) and 16 (2)(b) of the same act.

The offences contravenes the provisions of sections 15,  15 (2), 15(3), 18, and 18 (a)  of the Money Laundering Prohibition Amendment Act 2011.

They pleaded not guilty to the charge.


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