By Taiye Agbaje
Abuja, Feb. 13, 2023
A Federal High Court, Abuja has shifted the trial of former Aviation Minister, Sen. Stella Oduah, and others on alleged N5 billion fraud to June 5 for arraignment.
The trial, which was scheduled to commence on Monday, could not go on.
A check at the court by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) showed that the matter was not on the cause list for the day.
Besides, neither the prosecution counsel nor the defence lawyers were in court.
NAN, however, gathered that the trial had been fixed for June 5, June 6, June 7, June 8 and June 9, but could not ascertain the real reason for the adjournment, though electoral matters had recently dominated matters in the court.
NAN, on Oct 12, 2022, reported that the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN, had given the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) approval to prosecute the former minister on allegations bordering on fraud.
Prosecuting counsel, Hassan Liman, SAN, had informed Justice Inyang Ekwo at the resumed hearing on the matter.
Justice Ekwo had fixed Oct 12, 2022, for arraignment of the defendants following a letter from the office of the AGF in response to a petition written by counsel to the 8th defendant in the suit, Ogbu James, SAN.
NAN reports that Onoja had, on Nov. 22, 2021, raised objection to the defendants taking their plea, informing that a petition had already been written to the AGF, complaining that the defendants were just been persecuted as against prosecution.
The development prompted the court to adjourn to await a response from the AGF.
When the matter was called for the defendants to take their plea, counsel to the EFCC, Mr Liman, informed that the AGF had finally responded to the petition and given a nod in a letter for the matter to proceed.
The senior lawyer said no fewer than 32 witnesses had been lined up to testify in the suit.
Lawyers to all the defendants, including Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, who appeared for the senator, acknowledged receipt of the letter from the AGF.
The judge, who ordered an accelerated hearing in the trial, directed all parties to put their house in order.
Justice Ekwo, who said the trial would be on a day-to-day basis, had adjourned until Feb. 13, Feb. 14, Feb. 15, Feb. 16 and Feb. 17 for hearing.
Oduah, who currently represents Anambra North Senatorial District at the National Assembly, was expected to be arraigned by the EFCC on alleged N5 billion fraud and financial misappropriation.
Oher defendants in the charge, marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/316/2020, are Gloria Odita, Nwosu Emmanuel Nnamdi and Chukwuma Irene Chinyere.
They also include Global Offshore and Marine Ltd, Tip Top Global Resources Ltd, Crystal Television Ltd, Sobora International Ltd and others.
They are being charged with conspiracy, money laundering and maintaining anonymous bank accounts with a commercial bank.
They will be arraigned on 25-count charge.