Tony Osauzo, Benin
The name of late Board of Trustees (BoT) Chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Tony Anenih, resonated at the Federal High Court in Benin City on Monday when counsel adopted their written briefs in an alleged N700 million money laundering case brought against five persons.
Those arraigned are Pastor Ize-Iyamu, a former Deputy Governor, Mr Lucky Imasuen, a former member representing Esan South-East and Esan North-East federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Tony Azigbemi, Efe Erimuoghae Anthony and Chief Dan Orbih.
They were arraigned on an eight-count charge of conspiracy with themselves to commit money laundering to the tune of N700 million, an offence contrary to section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended which is punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alleged that the defendants were arraigned for receiving the amount prior to the 2015 general elections, from former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke.
But on Monday, counsel to the defendants in adopting their written addresses urged the court to dismiss the EFCC’s reply based on incompetence.
Specifically, counsel to the 4th defendant, Ferdinand Orbih, SAN, while adopting his brief, urged the court to strike out the charge for gross incompetence.
He said there was no dispute to the fact that Chief Anenih was dead, pointing out that the prosecution ought to have amended the charge to remove all irrelevant content.
Orbih stated that the court was not set up to deal with frivolities.
Also adopting his brief, Kingsley Obamogie, counsel to the first defendant, said there was no reply from the EFCC as it was not signed.
He said it was the height of incongruity for a counsel to affix his stamp and another counsel will sign it.
Obamogie urged the court to strike out the charge because the EFCC filed its reply out of time.
In its reply, the EFCC said it never charge Chief Tony Anenih alongside Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and four others for the alleged crime, adding that the name of Chief Anenih only appeared to enable it present the fact the way it is.
Counsel to the EFCC, Aso Larry, while adopting his written address, said the defendants were alive to face trial and that the argument was a ploy to delay taking their plea.
He said it was not the defendants that should state the way and manner they should be charged.
The EFCC counsel said it was not possible to amend the charges because Chief Anenih is now dead.
”We have a right to fair hearing. The proof of evidence is before your Lordship. Chief Anenih is not charged. His name appearing does not affect them taking plea. Our duty is to present the fact the way it is.
”The defendants in their statements featured the name of Anenih. We do not intend to charge Anenih,” Aso said.
Meanwhile, the presiding Judge, Justice Mohammed Umar, has fixed March 26 for ruling on whether the trial will continue.