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

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The defence yesterday told a Federal High Court that it applied for an order to direct prosecution to supply it with the summary of evidence it would provide in the trial of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) President Paul Usoro.

Defence counsel Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN) told the court in Lagos that the application dated March 15 sought the court’s order to direct the prosecution to frontload the summary of its evidence.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had preferred a 10-count charge bordering on fraud against the NBA leader, who was re-arraigned before Justice Mohammed Aikawa on March 1.

Usoro, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge, and was granted bail.

Akwa Ibom Governor Emmanuel Udom was named in the charge but described as currently constitutionally immune from prosecution.

Also mentioned are: Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Finance Nsikan Nkan; Accountant-General Mfon Udomah; Commissioner for Justice & Attorney-General, Uwemedimo Nwoko and one Margaret Ukpe.

The defendants were said to be at large.

The court issued a bench warrant on March 1 for their arrest and production in court.

Usoro was first arraigned before Justice Muslim. The case was later transferred to Justice Chuka Obiozor, following an application by defence.

On February 14, Obiozor recused himself from the case on personal grounds, saying that the case file would be returned for re-assignment to another judge.

Consequently, the case was re-assigned to Justice Mohammed Aikawa.

At yesterday’s session, Rotimi Oyedepo announced appearance for the EFCC and informed the court that the case was slated for commencement of trial.

He submitted that a prosecution witness was in court and for the trial.

Reacting, Usoro’s counsel (Adedipe) drew the court’s attention to the application seeking for an order to direct prosecution to supply defence with the summary of witnesses’ evidence.

However, the prosecution counsel, Oyedepo, prayed that the application should not stall the trial.

He informed the court that statements of some witnesses including the witness present in court had been frontloaded.

He urged the court to proceed with trial.

Chief Mike Ozekhome, (SAN), who announced appearance for the other parties listed in the charge against whom bench warrants had been issued, also informed the court of a pending application seeking to vacate the bench warrants.

Again, Dr. Charles Mekume, who announced appearance for Udom, told the court of a preliminary objection challenging the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the case.

After arguments on whether to adjourn the case for hearing of the applications, the court adjourned the case until April 17 for the hearing.

The judge, however, held that it would be the last time the court would grant such an adjournment, warning that such a delay in a criminal trial would not be tolerated.

In the charge marked FHC/418c/18, the anti-graft agency alleged that the defendants committed the offences on May 14, 2016.

The commission alleged that Usoro conspired with the others to convert N1.4 billion belonging to Akwa Ibom State government.

The EFCC said the defendants ought to have reasonably know that the sum formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity.

The prosecution said the defendants breached Sections 15 (2), 15(3) and 18 (A) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.

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