The Lagos Division Court of Appeal, yesterday struck out four of the 10-count money laundering charges filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro.
The appellate court panel headed by Justice Bello Aliyu struck out the four counts in which the name of governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, was mentioned.
In the charge, the EFCC claimed that Usoro converted and laundered N1.4bn in connivance with the Governor.
Although Emmanuel was named in four counts of the charge he was however not listed as a defendant as the anti-graft agency indicated that he is “currently constitutionally immune against criminal prosecution”.
One of the charge reads, “That you Paul Usoro, SAN, Emmanuel Udom (currently constitutionally immune against criminal prosecution), Uwemedimo Thomas Nwoko (still at large), Nsikan Linus Nkan (commissioner for Finance, Akwa Ibom State) (still at large), Mfon Jacobson Udomah (accountant general of Akwa Ibom state) (still at large) and Margaret Thompson Ukpe (still at large) sometimes in 2015 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court conspired amongst yourselves to commit an offence, to wit, conversion of N1.4 billion, property of government of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, which sum you reasonably ought to know forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity to wit; criminal breach of trust and thereby committed an offence contrary Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”
Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court, Lagos, had on May 30, 2019, dismissed an application filed by Udom, seeking to quash the entire charge preferred against Usoro and other defendants by the EFCC.
Justice Aikawa held then that Udom’s application, seeking to get his name off the charge, lacked merit because he was not a party to the case.
In his ruling, Justice Aikawa held that, “it is not in doubt that the applicant at the moment belongs to the class of Nigerians who enjoy constitutional immunity from civil and criminal proceedings by virtue of his office as long as he holds that office.
“But the question is whether it will be valid to say that the applicant is facing a charge before this court.
“As far as I know, necessary parties are grouped into the complainant and the named defendants who is Paul Usoro in this case.”