*Photo: Stella Oduah*
The Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) Mr Lateef Fagbemi, SAN, has taken over a N5 billion fraud case filed by the Economic Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, and others in compliance with a court order.
David Kaswe, the Chief State Counsel from the AGF’s Chambers, told Justice Inyang Ekwo shortly after the matter was called for hearing.
Upon resumed hearing, Kaswe notified the court that the AGF was taking over the matter and that his office had written to the EFCC but the commission was yet to release the case file to enable them commence the trial.
He, therefore, sought an adjournment.
But Justice Ekwo reminded the lawyer that it was the order of the court that the AGF should take over the case.
The judge, who said that the office of the AGF did not need to write the anti-graft agency, said the EFCC was bound to obey the order.
Kaswe, however, said that his office took into cognisance the fact that the EFCC had just had a change of leadership.
Justice Ekwo adjourned the matter until March 28.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the judge had, on July 21, ordered the AGF’s office to take over the N5 billion fraud case shortly after the arraignment of Oduah, a Chinese construction giant, CCECC, and others.
The development occured after the anti-corruption agency’s lawyer, Offem Uket, was unable to provide a direct answer to the judge’s question on why the agency failed to produce in court persons behind breaching his privacy through text messages on his phone and another group who petitioned the chief justice of Nigeria regarding the ongoing case.
“I will give a date for trial and make a consequential order because you have allowed this matter to degenerate this way.
“You think you can shield any of these persons who have interfered in these proceedings?” he asked rhetorically.
“I make an order that the AGF shall take over this case and the EFCC shall hand over the records of proceedings to the office of the AGF,” the judge had ruled.
NAN reports that Oduah, a former senator representing Anambra North Senatorial District at the 9th National Assembly, and others were arraigned on July 21 on 25-count charge.
She was arraigned alongside CCECC Nigeria Ltd, the Nigerian subsidiary of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) established by the Chinese government to execute international contracts and economic cooperation.
Also joined in the charge are Gloria Odita, Nwosu Emmanuel Nnamdi and Chukwuma Irene Chinyere.
Others include Global Offshore and Marine Ltd, Tip Top Global Resources Ltd, Crystal Television Ltd and Sobora International Ltd.
They all pleaded not guilty to the counts and were admitted to bail in terms of the administrative bail earlier granted them by the anti-graft agency.
In the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/316/2020 and filed by the EFCC on December 17, 2020, the defendants are being accused of laundering various sums of money totalling about N5,052,415,984 between February and June 2014.
The EFCC accused the defendants of conspiracy to commit money laundering, transferring, taking control and taking possession of proceeds of fraud, aiding and abetting money laundering and opening anonymous bank accounts.
Specifically, the prosecution alleged in two of the 25 counts that Oduah, a former Aviation Minister, and Odita opened anonymous “Private Banking Nominee” dollar and naira accounts with First Bank Ltd, thereby committing 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.
In the charge, CCECC Nigeria Limited was alleged to have transferred over N2.5 billion into the naira account of a Private Banking Nominee between March 31 and June 6, 2014.(NAN)