Alleged N1.4bn Money Laundering: EFCC Closes Case Against Former NBA President, Paul Usoro

Mr Paul Usoro (file)

 

After taking the evidence of its second witness, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has closed its case at the Federal High Court, Lagos, in the alleged N1.4billion money laundering trial of a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro, SAN.

The counsel to the EFCC, Uduak Kufre who asked Justice Rilwan Aikawa to discharge the witness also told the court that the commission was pleased with the evidence it had put forward in the case.

The EFCC had called Idongesit Udom, a deputy manager at Zenith Bank as it’s a first witness and Abdulrahman Arabo, the investigating officer as its second and final witness.

After discharging the witness and closing its case, the stage was set for the defendant to put in his defence but counsel to the former NBA President, Mr Effiong Effiong, SAN, has told the court of the defendant’s intention to file a ‘no case’ submission.

READ ALSO: EFCC Uncovers Internet Fraud Training Centre In Abuja

Justice Aikawa then adjourned till March 12, for the adoption of the no-case submission.

Paul Usoro was first arraigned for the alleged offence on December 18, 2018, before Justice Muslim Hassan of the same court.

On March 1, 2019, he was re-arraigned before Justice Aikawa on a 10-count charge bordering on laundering money for the Akwa-Ibom State officials to the tune of N1.4bn.

One of the counts against the defendant reads: “That you, Paul Usoro, SAN, Emmanuel Udom (currently constitutionally immuned against criminal prosecution), Uwemedimo Thomas Nwoko (still at large), Nsikan Linus Nkan, Commissioner of Finance, Akwa Ibom State (still at large), Mfon Jacobson Udomah, Accountant-General, Akwa Ibom State (still at large) and Margaret Thompson Ukpe (still at large), sometime in 2015 in Nigeria, conspired to commit an offence, to wit: conversion of N1,410,000,000,000 property of the Government of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria.”

The EFCC claimed that they reasonably ought to have known the money was “part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity to wit: criminal breach of trust and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”

Paul Usoro pleaded not guilty.

An investigating officer with the EFCC, Abdulrahman Arabo, told the court that the government hired the immediate-past President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Paul Usoro (SAN), who, in turn, invited other SANs to join him, at the election tribunal where Gov Udom’s victory was being challenged in 2015.

The EFFC witness also testified that the sum of N1.4bn legal fee paid to the SANs was drawn from the treasury of the Akwa Ibom State’s account.

Of this amount, the sum of N55m was allegedly paid by Usoro as kick-back, into the account of Akwa Ibom State’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr Uwemedimo Nwoko.

Witness Reveals How Ex-NBA President, Usoro Received N1.1bn From Akwa Ibom Govt

Court Adjourns Alleged N1.4bn Laundering Case Against Usoro, Others
NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro, addressing a press conference in Abuja in December 2018.

 

The second prosecution witness, Abdulrahman Arabo, in the ongoing trial of Paul Usoro, SAN, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, for alleged N1.4bn fraud, on has told Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos how the defendant received a sum of N1.1bn from the Akwa-Ibom State government.

Usoro was first arraigned on December 18, 2018 before Justice Muslim Hassan of the same court.

He was later re-arraigned on March 1, 2019 on a 10-count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N1.4bn.

One of the counts reads: “ That you, Paul Usoro, SAN, Emmanuel Udom (currently constitutionally immune against criminal prosecution), Uwemedimo Thomas Nwoko (still at large), Nsikan Linus Nkan, Commissioner of Finance, Akwa Ibom State (still at large), Mfon Jacobson Udomah, Accountant-General, Akwa Ibom State (still at large) and Margaret Thompson Ukpe (still at large), sometime in 2015 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable court, conspired amongst yourselves to commit an offence, to wit: conversion of the sum of N1. 410, 000, 000, 000.00 (One Billion, Four Hundred and Ten Million Naira), the property of the Government of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of unlawful activity to wit: criminal breach of trust and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”

READ ALSO: Police Withdraws Suit Against Judicial Panels Of Inquiry

He pleaded “not guilty” to the charge preferred against him.

Led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Umar Buhari, at the resumed sitting, Arabo, an investigator with the EFCC, told the court that the defendant failed to link the money found in his account to the cases he claimed to be handling in courts.

When asked by the defence counsel, Offiong Effiong SAN, if he received any letter from the defendant that was addressed to the Chairman of the EFCC stating the details of the job he did for the Akwa-Ibom State government and the payment received, Arabo answered in the affirmative.

Arabo, during cross-examination by the defence, also revealed that “there was an allegation that the defendant was laundering money for the Akwa-Ibom State government, and the evidence showed that he received about N1.1bn between 2015 and 2016 from the State Government.”

Arabo, however, denied holding the defendant till the wee hours of the night of June 4, 2020, during his first visit to the EFCC office in Abuja.

He said the delay experienced by the defendant on the said day was due to the fact that he had been given a bail condition to meet and his international passport was to be brought to him at the EFCC office in Abuja from Lagos.

NBA Holds Annual General Conference

NBA President, Paul Usoro addresses participants during the Annual General Conference on August 26, 2020 in Lagos State.

 

 

The Nigerian Bar Association is currently holding its Annual General Conference.

According to NBA President, Paul Usoro, the 60th edition of the conference represents a novel platform for knowledge exchange on the continent.

It hopes to bring together world leaders, political icons, judges, leading lawyers, thought leaders, policy makers, business icons, and civil society.

The participants will not just discuss but produce an implementation plan to foster the adoption of policies, standards and practices leading to socio-political stability, economic growth, sustainable and infrastructural development for accelerated regional and economic integration.

The conference is being held at the Eko Hotel and Suites in Victoria Island, Lagos State.

 

NBA Conference: We Didn’t Disinvite El-Rufai For Ethnic, Religious Reasons – Usoro

Court Adjourns Alleged N1.4bn Laundering Case Against Usoro, Others
A file photo of NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro, addressing a press conference in Abuja.

 

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has reacted to the controversy triggered by the decision to disinvite Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, as a speaker in one of the panel sessions at the forthcoming conference of its members.

NBA President, Paul Usoro, who is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), explained the rationale behind the decision of the National Executive Council of the association in a statement on Friday.

He stressed that the disinvitation of the governor from the event had no ethnic or religious coloration or connotation as being claimed.

Usoro revealed that some of those who spoke against the governor’s attendance share the same faith with him while others came from the northern part of the country.

According to him, NBA NEC is not passing any judgment on Governor El-Rufai by its decision and is not in a position to pass such judgments without having all the facts and hearing from all the sides.

The NBA chairman state that the NEC did not discuss the substance of the issues that have been raised against the governor by the different groups and persons who clamored for his being disinvited, although there was “very considerable clamour” in that regard.

He insisted that the claims that the NEC decision was based on religion and ethnicity were not correct, stressing that they were far from the truth.

A file photo of Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai.

 

Usoro, who stated that neither the NBA nor its NEC belonged to any religious or ethnic group, urged the members of the association to remain united.

This year’s NBA Annual General Conference, which is the 60th, has been scheduled to take place between August 26 to 29.

Read the full statement below:

NBAAGC 2020 – NBA’S NATIONAL EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE’S (“NEC”) DECISION TO DIS-INVITE HIS EXCELLENCY MALLAM NASIR EL-RUFAI AS A SPEAKER IN A PANEL SESSION

1              At its meeting that was held yesterday, 20 August 2020, NEC took the decision to dis-invite HE Mallam Nasir El-Rufai as a Speaker in one of the Panel Sessions that is planned for the NBA 2020 AGC holding from 26-29 August 2020. This morning, I have had telephone discussions with the Director-General of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Mr Asishana Okauru, on the issue and have tendered through him, to HE Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, my sincere apologies and regrets for any unintended embarrassment that he may have been caused by the NBA NEC’s decision.

2              I followed up our telephone discussions with the attached letter which explains the circumstances of the decision by NEC. The letter has been sent to Mr. Okauru, both in hard and soft copies. It is apropos that I reproduce in this Release, paragraphs 5, 6 and 7 of the letter for ease of reference by our members:

“5. In concluding, I must clarify two critical issues. First, NEC’s decision yesterday had no ethnic or religious coloration or connotation howsoever and whatsoever. In discussing the issue at NEC, nobody talked about religion or ethnicity. As I recall, there were no more than 3 (three) advocates for retaining the invitation of the NBA to HE Nasir El-Rufai(not including me) and two of these three gentlemen are from the South of Nigeria and one is a reverend gentleman. Conversely, some of those who spoke against his attendance share the same faith with Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and some others come from the Northern part of Nigeria.

“6. The second point that I must clarify is that, NBA NEC, by its decision was not passing any judgment on Mallam Nasir El-Rufai. NBA NEC is not in a position to pass such judgments without having all the facts and hearing from all the sides and it did not set out to pass any such judgment. NEC merely made a judgment that it was not in the best interest of the Association to be engulfed in the controversy that trailed the invitation of Mallam El-Rufai for the Conference and that it was best if the safety-valve of dis-inviting the Governor was applied. Indeed, NEC did not howsoever or at all discuss the substance of the issues that have been raised against the Governor by the different groups and persons who clamored for his being dis-invited – and there was very considerable clamor in that regard. I perhaps need to mention that, prior to the NEC meeting I had personally taken urgent and strident steps, working with the TCCP, to douse the clamor, but we had no success.

“7. I truly would appreciate your bringing this letter to the attention not just of HE Nasir El-Rufai but also to all the other members of the esteemed Nigerian Governors’ Forum and in particular, the Chairman of the Forum, HE (Dr) Kayode Fayemi. Please, assure Their Excellencies that the Nigerian Bar Association holds all our Governors, including HE Nasir El-Rufai, in the highest esteem and would do nothing intentionally to embarrass them collectively or individually. Once again, I offer my sincere and deepest apologies and regrets for the unintended embarrassment that may have been caused to HE Nasir El-Rufai by the afore-referenced decision of the NBA NEC and would appreciate your passing on my regrets and apologies to him personally.”

3              I draw attention to those paragraphs of my letter in particular in order to douse the ethnic and religious passions that seem to have been inflamed amongst our members by the NEC decision. I have received several messages from our members that have attributed ethnic and religious considerations to the decision. That is not correct and is very far from the truth. Neither the NBA nor NEC belong to any religious or ethnic group. We are lawyers and professionals dedicated to the ideals and the promotion and preservation of the Rule of Law and we belong to one indivisible family of the NBA.

4              Did NEC infringe the audi alteram partem principle – a cardinal principle of the Rule of the Law – by dis-inviting HE Mallam Nasir El-Rufai? No, it did not. As I point out in my letter, neither the NBA nor NEC set out to sit in judgment against Mallam El-Rufai and even from that prism, the principle of fair hearing does not apply. None of the persons or parties who are opposed to the invitation of Mallam El- Rufai to the AGC has been offered the NBA or AGC platform to advocate or propagate their viewpoints and positions and so, the principle of not hearing the other side does not arise.

5              Indeed, as at date, neither the NBA as a body nor NEC has interrogated the issues raised by persons who are opposed to HE El-Rufai’s invitation to the AGC and, therefore, the issues of fair hearing do not also arise. NBA is not even equipped to play that role of an arbiter or court in respect of the issues raised by persons opposed to HE El-Rufai’s invitation and has never pretended to be so equipped and/or mandated.

6              I am hoping that this Release would assist in clarifying issues for our members and placing the NEC decision in its correct perspective. I implore all our members to please not view this issue howsoever from an ethnic or religious perspective. Those were not the issues considered by NEC yesterday. We are one united Nigerian Bar Association with no religious or ethnic bias or predisposition and shall ever so remain.

Paul Usoro, SAN

NBA President

Alleged Money Laundering: Trial Of NBA President Usoro To Continue Next Week

Court Adjourns Alleged N1.4bn Laundering Case Against Usoro, Others
NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro, addressing a press conference in Abuja in December 2018.

 

A Federal High Court in Lagos has adjourned hearing in the alleged N1.4billion fraud case filed against President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Paul Usoro.

Usoro is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) before Justice Rilwan Aikawa on 10 counts bordering on fraud.

At the resumed hearing on Monday, Justice Aikawa adjourned proceedings till Monday, March 9 after listening to arguments from the anti-graft agency and the defendants lawyer on the availability of certain documents,

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Counsel to the NBA President, Offiong O. Offiong told the court that he had sent a subpoena to the EFCC requesting for certain documents which he says are necessary for him to cross examine the prosecution witness and prepare his defence.

In the absence of those documents, the counsel said he could not proceed with the cross examination of the witness.

Meanwhile, the Prosecuting Counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo told the court that he was not aware of the subpoena as it was not directed to him or served on him.

After arguments and counter arguments, the EFCC counsel assured the court that he would follow up and make the documents available so that the case can continue speedily.

Anti-Corruption War Sometimes Used As Excuse To Degrade Rule Of Law – Paul Usoro

 

President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro, has said that the Federal Government sometimes uses the anti-corruption fight as an excuse to degrade the Rule of Law.

According to him, if the government is indeed serious about fighting corruption, it would directly block the loopholes that have allowed the menace to thrive.

Mr Usoro who was a guest on Channels TV’s Politics Today on Wednesday, said this while addressing the issue of Separation of Powers and the independence of the various arms of government.

Read Also: ‘This Government Is Intimidating The Judiciary’ – Galadima

He said: “This business of having to fight corruption…sometimes, it is used as an excuse to infringe on people’s rights and degrade the Rule of Law.

“If the government is seriously interested in having to fight corruption, the significant way to do it is to look at those loopholes in the system and make sure you plug those loopholes”.

The NBA boss also took a swipe at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for the manner in which he says the agency goes about fighting corruption.

According to him, recovering monies or winning cases does not bring an end to corruption.

“I find it very ridiculous that for example (the EFCC), its index for establishing that it is fighting corruption is how much money that it recovers and how many cases that it wins in court.

“That doesn’t stop corruption.

“On the other hand, if for example you find that petroleum subsidy enhances corruption, then government needs to look into it.

“If you look into it, then you will block that oxygen that gives life to corruption,” he said.

Alleged Money Laundering: Gov Udom Fails To Stop Trial Of NBA’s Paul Usoro

 

The trial of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Paul Usoro (SAN) has started with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), calling its first prosecution witness.

Before this, Justice Rilwan Aikawa had struck out an application filed by the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel seeking to stay the proceedings and adjourn indefinitely pending the verdict of the Appeal Court on his challenge to a decision delivered on May 30.

On that day, Justice Aikawa had dismissed the governor’s application challenging the court’s jurisdiction to hear the money laundering charge filed against the NBA President.

Justice Aikawa held that Governor Udom’s application lacked merit because he was not a party to the suit.

After resisting the move to adjourn the proceedings, the court ordered the EFCC to call its first prosecution witness.

The First Prosecution Witness, Udom Idongesit, a Relationship Manager with Zenith Bank, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State told the court how she came to open an account for the defendant, Mr Paul Usoro.

She testified that in March 2016, her bank was given withdrawal instruments of N700m from the impress account of the state government.

According to her, N300m out of the money was signed for and collected by Margaret Thompson Ukpe, an employee of the state government.

The court admitted in evidence the Zenith Bank withdrawal instruction documents and the account opening documents.

A move by the prosecution to get the witness to read out certain portions of the document was resisted by the defense team who insisted that the document speaks for itself.

Meanwhile, Counsel to the NBA President, Offiong Offiong (SAN), told the court that he had not been served some documents he requested for from the prosecution to enable him to prepare adequately for the defence.

Subsequently, the court adjourned till October 21 for the continuation of the trial.

NBA President Task Buhari, Governors on Security, Independence of Judiciary

Court Adjourns Alleged N1.4bn Laundering Case Against Usoro, Others
NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro.

 

The National President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Paul Usoro has called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the 36 State Governors to find lasting solution to the insecurity problem in the country.

Mr Usoro who noted that in today’s Nigeria no part of the country or ethnic group is safe warned that if urgent steps are not taken Nigeria may soon become a failed state.

The president who made the call during the third National Executive Meeting (NEC) in Abuja, also appealed to leaders at all levels of government to guarantee the independence of the judiciary which he said is fundamental to the survival of democracy and the nation.

“My dear colleagues, as you would observe, I have given you three illustrative
instances of the insecurity that pervades our land from the three NBA Nigerian Zones East, West and North – and that, by itself, makes the point that no part of our country is safe.

“No region is safe, and no tribe is safe. No one indeed is safe. And yet,
we have governments in place, at the Federal, State and Local Government levels and the primary business of governments is the protection of lives and property”, he said.

The NBA president argued that without security of lives and property, everything in the country will ground to a halt, adding that, “Only those who are alive can enjoy medi-care, educational facilities, infrastructure renewal, economic boom and all the other tangible and intangible benefits of a democratic society.

“We therefore demand from our governments at all levels this basic minimum of their debt to us, to wit, security of lives and property in the land”, he said.

Usoro who also lamented the lack of independence of the judiciary, remarked that it is an irony that those in position of power today are the ones that would first run to the judiciary for help when they are out of power and are in trouble.

He disclosed that judges today operate under very oppressive and pervasive climate of fear and insecurity.

“There is the pervasive concern that government and its security operatives have dossiers on judges, real or imagined, and could unleash inquisitorial terror on judges if they decide issues against governments and its agencies.

“Even those of our judges who are whistle-clean – and I believe that most even if not all are – may not be willing to go through the inquisitorial processes of the various security agencies to prove their innocence. And so, we have Judges literally walking on egg-shells, notably, where governments and their agencies have interest in matters that they adjudicate upon”, he said.

EFCC Vs Usoro: Court Dismisses Gov Udom’s Application For Lack In Merit

Mr Paul Usoro (file)

 

The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has dismissed an application by Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa-Ibom state challenging its jurisdiction to hear the money laundering charge filed against the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Paul Usoro (SAN).

Justice Rilwan Aikawa held that Gov. Udoms application lacked merit because he is not a party to the suit.

At the last adjourned date, of 10th May, Gov Udom through his counsel, Dr Charles Mekwunye, argued that it was illegal for the EFCC to put the governor’s name in the charge as he still enjoys immunity as enshrined in Section 308 of the Constitution.

READ ALSO: BREAKING: EFCC Arraigns JAMB Official Who Claimed Snake Swallowed Money

The counsel had also argued that even the governors aides could not be charged before the court because the funds in issue do not belong to the Federal Government.

In the charge, the EFCC alleged that Usoro converted and laundered the money in connivance with Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa- Ibom State.

The governor was however not listed as a defendant in the charge, as the anti-graft agency indicated that he is currently constitutionally immune against criminal prosecution.

One of the counts 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.

In his ruling on the preliminary application filed by the governor to challenge the charge, 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 & 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 complainant and the named defendants who isPaul Usoro in this case.

Usoro is the one the court will turn to and pronounce verdict on, so the inclusion of the applicant does not make him a defendant before this court. The mere mention of the applicant in the counts does not qualify him as a defendant so he is not part of this trial.

Count 1-4, therefore, remains mere statements and has not graduated to a charge. So the Arguments that his right to a fair hearing will be denied if the trial proceeds as it were, is in my view, a case of crying wolf where there is none. The Applicant is not a part of the trial.

On the issue of the Governors aides mentioned in the charge, Justice Aikawa said, I think this issue has been settled. The EFCC can bring this money laundering charge against persons-in the Federal or State High court- as it desires so the arguments of the counsel cannot stand.

It is my view that this application is lacking in merit and is accordingly dismissed

The court also granted an order directing the EFCC to serve its proof of evidence and the summary of some of its witnesses statements on oath to the defendant within 7days.

The trial was then adjourned till the 3rd of July.

Court Adjourns Alleged N1.4bn Laundering Case Against Usoro, Others

Court Adjourns Alleged N1.4bn Laundering Case Against Usoro, Others
NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro, addressing a press conference in Abuja in December 2018.

 

A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos State has adjourned till April 17 to hear three pending applications in the N1.4bn money laundering charge against the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Paul Usoro.

In one of the applications, brought pursuant to Section 36(6)(b) & (d) of the 1999 Constitution and Section 379(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), Mr Usoro, through his counsel, Ifedayo Adedipe is seeking for an order of the court, directing the EFCC to serve on him a summarised witness statement of evidence of those listed to give evidence in the matter.

In the proof of evidence, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had listed five Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SANs), among others, to testify in the matter.

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The other application was brought by the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of Akwa Ibom State, Uwemedimo Nwoko, and three others.

The others are the Commissioner for Finance in the state, Nsikan Nkan; the Accountant General, Mfon Udomah; and a cashier of the state government, Margaret Ukpe.

The application filed by Mike Ozekhome (SAN) on their behalf is asking the court to set aside the bench warrant issued against them.

At the last adjourned date of March 1, Justice Rilwan Aikawa granted the bench warrant at the instance of the EFCC who told the court that the government officials were at large and the warrant was necessary to ensure their presence in court.

The four government officials are charged alongside Mr Usoro on 10 counts of conspiracy and conversion of an alleged N1.4bn said to be property of the Akwa Ibom State government.

The third application was brought by the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Emmanuel Udom, who currently enjoys constitutional immunity from prosecution.

The application was filed on his behalf by his counsel, Dr Charles Mekwunye, to challenge the jurisdiction of the court to proceed with the charge.

In count one, the EFCC alleged that, Paul Usoro, Governor Emmanuel, and the other defendants all conspired to convert the sum of N1.4bn.

They were alleged to have committed the offence in 2016.

The EFCC said the defendants all reasonably ought to have known that the sums formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity.

EFCC Re-arraigns Usoro As Court Orders Arrest Of Two Akwa Ibom Commissioners, Others

Alleged N1.4bn Money Laundering: Second Judge Disqualifies Self NBA President's Trial
NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro, addressing a press conference in Abuja in December 2018.

 

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Friday re-arraigned the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Paul Usoro.

He was re-arraigned before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on 10 counts of conspiracy and conversion of an alleged N1.4bn to which he, again, pleaded not guilty.

Justice Aikawa is the third judge to be assigned the case.

The first judge, Justice Muslim Hassan was re-assigned from the case after the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati granted the request of the NBA President for a change of judge.

The second judge, Justice Chuka Obiozor disqualified himself from the case after citing “personal reasons”.

The case was, thereafter, re-assigned to Justice Aikawa.

In December 2018, the court admitted him to bail in the sum of N250 million with one surety in like sum after he pleaded not guilty.

At today’s hearing, Justice Aikawa allowed the NBA President to continue on the bail he was earlier granted by the first trial judge but the EFCC drew the attention of the court to the fact that Mr Usoro was yet to meet the conditions.

The judge had ordered that the surety must be either be a landed property owner within court’s jurisdiction or a civil servant whose position must not be lower than a director in the employment of the Federal or state government.

The defendant was also ordered to deposit his international passport with the court.

Justice Aikawa, thereafter, directed Mr Usoro to meet the bail conditions before March 15.

Meanwhile, the court also granted a bench warrant for the arrest of the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Akwa Ibom State, Uwemedimo Nwoko, the Commissioner of Finance, Nsikan Nkan, the Accountant General, Mfon Udomah and a Cashier of the State Govt, Margaret Ukpe.

Justice Aikawa granted the bench warrant at the instance of the EFCC, who told the court that the defendants are at large and the warrant was necessary to ensure their presence in court at the next adjourned date of March 18 and 19.

The four government officials are charged alongside Mr Usoro on 10 counts of conspiracy and conversion of an alleged N1.4bn said to be property of the State Government.

Alleged N1.4bn Money Laundering: NBA President’s Trial To Start Afresh

Alleged N1.4bn Money Laundering: NBA President’s Trial To Start Afresh
NBA President, Mr Paul Usoro, addressing a press conference in Abuja in December 2018.

 

The trial of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro, is to commence afresh at the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.

Mr Usoro would be re-arraigned on February 14 before Justice Chuks Obiozor on charges bordering on alleged money laundering to the tune of N1.4billion.

His planned re-arraignment followed the failure of the case to continue at the court on Tuesday.

Channels Television had reported on January 14 that the case had been re-assigned to Justice Obiozor.

The Chief Judge of the Court, Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati, re-assigned the case from the courtroom of Justice Muslim Hassan after he granted the request of the NBA President for a change of judge.

On December 18, 2018, a former NBA President and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Wole Olanipekun, who led Mr Usoro’s defence team had drawn the court’s attention to a letter written by his client to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, seeking the transfer of the case to another judge in Lagos or to any judicial division between Uyo and Abuja.

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After the proceedings of that day, the court had adjourned till February 5 for the continuation of the trial.

When journalists approached the court for coverage of the trial today, they observed that the case was not on the case list neither was the judge available.

Justice Obiozor was said to be away on a workshop.

Channels Television, however, gathered that parties agreed to come before the court on Thursday next week.

Mr Usoro is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 10 counts bordering on fraud.

He was alleged to have conspired with some others to convert the sum of N1.4 billion, property of Akwa Ibom State Government, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of unlawful activity.

The offence was allegedly committed in May 2016.

The commission also alleged that the NBA President conspired with others to commit the offence within the jurisdiction of the court.

Also named in the charge is the incumbent governor of Akwa Ibom, Mr Emmanuel Udom, who is described in the charge as being “currently constitutionally immune from prosecution”.

Others charged are the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Finance, Nsikan Nkan; Accountant-General of Akwa Ibom State, Mfon Udomah; the Akwa Ibom State Attorney-General, Uwemedimo Nwoko, and Margaret Ukpe.

The defendants were said to be at large.

Mr Usoro had, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Justice Hassan subsequently admitted him to bail in the sum of N250 million with one surety in like sum.