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N1.4bn Fraud: Court Fixes April 17 For NBA President’s Applications

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Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday fixed April 17 to hear three applications filed by the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro (SAN) and the Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting the NBA president for allegedly laundering the sum of N1.4 billion belonging to the Akwa Ibom State government.

He was arraigned before the court by the anti-graft agency on a ten-court charge of conspiracy and money laundering.

The EFCC claimed that Usoro converted and laundered the money in connivance with the governor of his state. He pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The applications to be heard on April 17 are, a Motion On Notice brought by Usoro pursuant to Section 36(6)(B)(D) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 379(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), seeking for an order of the court, directing the complainant to serve on him a summarised witness statement of evidence of those listed to give evidence in the matter.

The second application was brought by the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State, Uwemedimo Nwoko, the state’s Accountant General, Mfon Udomah and the cashier at the Akwa Ibom State Government House, Margaret Ukpe.

Their applications filed by Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) is asking the court to set aside the bench warrant issued against them.

The third application was brought by the counsel to the governor, Dr. Charles Mekwunye, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to proceed with the charge as presently drafted.

He is arguing that as a sitting governor with immunity he cannot be tried by any court in Nigeria.

The EFCC, in the charge, claimed that Usoro in connivance with others mentioned in the charge conspired among themselves to commit the offence sometime in 2015 within the jurisdiction of the honourable court.

The EFCC also maintained that the N1.4 billion allegedly converted and laundered by the defendants belonged to the Akwa Ibom State government.

The commission insisted that the offence is contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.

EFCC also said that Usoro was paid with Awka Ibom State’s funds for legal services he rendered in his personal capacity to Udom, who was then a governorship candidate but is now a governor.

Justice Aikawa is the third judge to handle the case after both Justices Muslim Hassan and Chuka Obiozor, of the same court had withdrawn.

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