Alleged N5bn fraud: Court fixes July 21 for Stella Oduah’s arraignment


A Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed July 21 for the arraignment of Senator Stella Oduah and others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Justice Inyang Ekwo fixed the date after EFCC’s counsel, Hassan Liman, asked the court to allow the defendants to take their plea, having filed the charge against them on Dec. 17, 2020.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that EFCC had sued Oduah alongside Gloria Odita, Nwosu Emmanuel Nnamdi and Chukwuma Irene Chinyere.

Others include Global Offshore and Marine Ltd, Tip Top Global Resources Ltd, Crystal Television Ltd, Sobora International Ltd and others.

The senator, who represented Anambra North Senatorial District at the 9th National Assembly, was scheduled to be arraigned on alleged N5 billion fraud and financial misappropriation while she served as minister during the Jonathan administration.

In the 25-count charge marked, FHC/ABJ/CR/316/2020, they are accused of conspiracy, money laundering, and maintaining anonymous bank accounts with a commercial bank.

Upon resumed hearing, Liman said that on June 15, the court drew his attention to a letter or petition written to the Chief Justice of Nigeria against Justice Ekwo, and the judge gave a directive to the EFCC to carry out an investigation with a view to unravelling the identities of the persons.

He said the commission had carried out the investigation, and was able to trace the identity of the person via the telephone number, unmasked as Okolo Obinna Johnson, a promoter of two companies.

He said the effort was made through a search and the linking of the BVN of the alleged person via the telephone number submitted, and that the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) cooperated with EFCC.

However, Liman said that the anti-graft agency made all efforts to track the physical person in conjunction with other security agencies but was yet to be successful.

“This is how far the commission has gone in carrying out the directive of the court,” he said.

He assured that the EFCC would not leave any stone unturned in bringing the culprit to book.

The defence lawyer, Kanu Agabi, also affirmed: “No one should threaten our judges. It is up to the work of the judges that this country continues to survive.”

Ogwu James, SAN, said that the issue was not about the petition but the contact they made with the court.

He said that though anybody had the right to write a petition, sending a message to the court was the issue.

The EFCC’s lawyer then said that the commission had gotten the call log for the number through their investigation.

The judge, who wondered how the person got his phone number, said, “That character was sending messages to me, thereby breaching my privacy.”

Justice Ekwo, who said that the order to arrest the person was still subsisting, said, “The order was to find him, bring him to court, and let me deal with the matter.”

He said the order given to the Deputy Chief Registrar, Litigation, of the court to get the certified particulars of another organisation involved in the matter at CAC had been carried out.

He then asked if there was anybody representing the organisation in the court, but no one stood up.

The judge then said that the organization’s letter, phone number, and names would be given to the EFCC so as to arrest them and bring them to court.

He expressed displeasure at the manner in which the trial was allowed to degenerate, saying, “The court is never without an option, but out of respect to you, I will not take those options.”

He avowed that the matter would be tried and tried to a conclusion.

Justice Ekwo held that any defendant who is not in court anytime the matter is fixed for trial would be ordered to be arrested and remanded in detention.

Liman, therefore, appealed that the defendants be ordered to take their plea, even as the investigation continued into the persons behind the letter and the text messages.

But all the defence lawyers disagreed.

The judge consequently adjourned the matter until July 21 for pleas.

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