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Willie Obiano

Alleged  N4bn fraud: Court orders Obiano to face trial

By Wandoo Sombo
Abuja, April 18, 2024
The Federal High Court, Abuja on Thursday dismissed an application by the former governor of Anambra, Willie Obiano challenging the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to prosecute him.
Ruling on an application filed by Obiano challenging his trial on Thursday, Justice Inyang Ekwo said the application lacked merit and deserved to be dismissed.
The judge faulted and rejected all the grounds upon which the application was predicated by Obiano.
He said that there was no way the court would know whether the former governor was linked with the alleged offences or not unless the trial was conducted in line with the provisions of the law.
Justice Ekwo held  that the issue under contention, which was the security votes of the state were paid from the federation account and so the prosecution had a valid case.
 “As long as the EFCC Act has not been declared unconstitutional, this court cannot stop the implementation of the act.
“The powers of the EFCC ought to be a question of law and has bearing in the 1999 Constitution.
“State security votes come from the federation account making the development a constitutional issue.
“This court has no powers to preempt the case of the prosecution,” the judge said.
Ruling of the issue of proof of evidence, the judge  said that the Federal High Court was a court of summary jurisdiction in criminal proceedings.
He held that summary jurisdiction excused the use of proof of evidence prior to the commencement of trial.
He also said the appeal filed by the Anambra government referenced by the defendant had been determined in favour of the EFCC by the Supreme Court.
He, however, said the provisions of the constitution through which the application was brought had no bearing on the case.
“I find at this point that none of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) upon which the applicant relied in his application, has any bearing on this case.”
In his final analysis, the judge said that he was minded to make an order dismissing the application.
Following the ruling, counsel to Obiano, Mr. Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN moved an application requesting the release of his client’s international passport to enable him travel abroad for medical treatment.
“This is based on the health condition and medical appointments of the defendant.
“His treatments usually last sixty days. He will comply with the conditions set by my lord, “Ikpeazu said.
Counsel to the EFCC, Mr. Sylvanus Tahir, SAN, said that the prosecution was not opposing the application even though expressed reservations about the 60 days required for treatment.
“We are not opposed to the application but we have issues with the 60 days because the trial has been truncated already.”
The judge was minded to grant the application but said that the former governor must return his international passport to the registrar of the court upon his return.
He adjourned the matter until June 24, 25, 26, 27 for trial to start.
The News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN) reports that Obiano who was arraigned on Jan. 24 is standing trial on a nine-count charge bordering on alleged N4 billion fraud.
The former governor then filed an application challenging the powers of the EFCC to prosecute him.
He prayed the court to quash  the instant charges against him, describing them as an abuse of court process.
Obiano also held that no prima facie case had been established against him.
He claimed that there was no connection between the proof of evidence supplied to court by EFCC and the accusations against him.
He averred that there was no testimony from any witness indicating that he issued directives for the disbursement of security votes and other funds belonging to the Anambra State government.
Obiano also claimed that he cannot be held accountable for any alleged unlawful actions by officials of the Anambra State government as there is no concept of vicarious liability in the criminal justice system.
His motion on notice was brought pursuant to section 6 (6) (a) and (b) and section 36(6) (6) b of the 1999 constitution as amended and section 1(1) & (2), 266, 271(b), 383(4) &492 (3) of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act 2015.
Among others, Obiano sought “An order of the court quashing the instant charge for it amounts to flagrant abuse of judicial process and a mockery of the criminal Justice
“An order quashing the charge for non-disclosure of a prime facie case being vague and devoid of precision in respect of all the 9 count charges.
“No prima facie case has been disclosed against the defendant in this charge. There is no link between the proof of evidence and the purported allegation made against the defendant in the charge
“No evidence exists from any witness showing that the defendant passed down a directive for the disbursement of security votes and other funds belonging to Anambra State government.
“The defendant cannot be made answerable for any purported unlawful actions of officials of Anambra State government as there is no vicarious liability in our criminal jurisprudence.
“The thinking and conclusion of the prosecution on the counts arose from speculation and suspicions
“The subject matter of the charge borders on accountability for security vote funds.
The honourable court lacks the requisite jurisdiction to entertain issues on accountability for security vote funds
“There is an appeal filed by the Anambra state government challenging the powers of EFCC to investigate the security votes of Anambra state government.
“The preferment of the entire charge is in bad faith. This honourable court has inherent judicial power to grant all the reliefs sought above,” Obiano had asked.

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