From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Federal Government has lined up 32 witnesses as it expressed readiness to prosecute the former minister of aviation, Mrs. Stella Oduah, and eight others accused of complicity in money laundering offences to the tune of N5 billion.
Already, Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Abuja division of the Federal High Court has ordered an accelerated trial. When the matter came up yesterday, the prosecution counsel, Dr. Hassan Liman, SAN, informed the court that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) had given directive for the prosecution of Oduah after the conclusion of investigation.
Liman further informed the court that 32 witnesses have been lined up to testify against the defendants. Earlier attempts to arraign the defendants had been stalled, following a letter from the AGF and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN.
The prosecution counsel had previously notified the court that he received a letter from the office of the AGF in relation to the case. Liman said Malami had. in the letter dated May 6, disclosed that his office was still reviewing the facts of the case.
He, however, urged the court to proceed with the trial, pending the outcome of the review by the AGF. He lamented that no headway had been made in the case, owing to a petition the defendants forwarded to the office of the AGF.
Liman argued that, in line with section 396(1) and (2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, objections to challenge a charge could only be raised after a plea had been taken. Counsel to the seventh and eighth defendants, James Onoja SAN, had informed the court about the existence of a petition to the office of the AGF, accusing the prosecution agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of persecuting the defendants.
However, at the resumption of trial yesterday, the prosecution counsel, Dr. Liman, informed the court that the AGF had given his legal advice to the EFCC to prosecute the matter.
The defence counsel equally confirmed receipt of a copy of the AGF’s legal advice. Consequently, Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter to February 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17, 2023 for accelerated trial.
Oduah, who served as aviation minister from 2011 to 2014, and currently the Senator representing Anambra North, is facing a 25-count money laundering charge which the EFCC preferred against her and eight others.
Other defendants in the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/316/20 are Gloria Odita, Nwosu Emmanuel Nnamdi, Chukwuma Irene Chinyere, Global Offshore and Marine Ltd, Tip Top Global Resources Ltd, Crystal Television Ltd and Sobora International Ltd.
The EFCC alleged that the defendants conspired and laundered funds to the tune of about N7.9 billion. EFCC, in the charge, alleged that Oduah and Odita, who was identified as her aid and the Company Secretary to Sea Petroleum & Gas Company Ltd (SPGC), in February 2014, used their positions to transfer N1,629,250,000.00 from I-Sec Security Nig. Ltd account No. 2021756955 with First Bank Plc, to Global Offshore and Marine Ltd account No. 2022977296 also domiciled with First Bank Plc, which money they reasonably ought to have known that it formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.
Oduah and Odita were accused of opening a naira “anonymous Private Banking Nominee Account No. 2024414450 with First Bank Plc and, thereby, committed an offence contrary to Section 11(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (As Amended) and punishable under Section 11(4) (a) of the same Act.”
They were, equally accused of opening a United State dollar “anonymous Private Banking Nominee account No. 2024414498 with First Bank Plc and, thereby, committed an offence contrary to Section 11(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (As Amended) and punishable under Section 1 1(4) (a) of the same Act.”