The arraignment of Stella Oduah, a former minister of aviation and senator representing Anambra North Senatorial District at the National Assembly, was again aborted Monday, November 22, 2021.
The former minister was to be docked alongside nine others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC before Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja on a 25-count charge. Justice Ekwo had on October 20, 2021 fixed today (Monday) for the arraignment of the former minister over allegations that border on fraud and money laundering to the tune of N5billion while she held sway at the aviation ministry.
At today’s sitting, Ofem Ikpi Uket announced his appearance for the EFCC and sought leave of the court to read the charges for the defendants to take their pleas. But a defence counsel, Oguh Onoja raised an objection. He informed the court that a petition had been written to the Attorney General of the Federation, complaining that the defendants were being persecuted.
“This case is a matter of persecution and not a matter of prosecution; based on that we have the objection that this plea cannot be taken. There was a petition written to the Attorney General of the Federation claiming that this matter is more of a persecution and not prosecution and we got a response from the AGF. The AGF requested that the case file be remitted to his office and up till now the EFCC is yet to do that”, he said.
Responding, the prosecution counsel informed the court that though he was just seeing the letter, a petition could not stop a plea from being taken. “The AGF has powers to intervene, continue or discontinue a case. The fact that a petition has been written to the AGF does not stop the plea from being taken,” he said.
Justice Ekwo however noted that a constitutional issue had been raised which he could not deal with summarily.
“Therefore, I make an order that the prosecution shall file and serve a written address on this matter within 30 days, which will be limited to 15 pages. Learned counsel of the seventh defendant are to file a response. I will also order the other learned counsel to file written addresses upon being served by the prosecution.
“Now, upon that being done, I will then make an order to adjourn this matter for adoption of written addresses. The defendant shall continue on administrative bail until this issue is resolved,” he ruled.
He adjourned the matter until February 10, 2022, for adoption of the written addresses and ordered that the defendants continue on the standing administrative bail.