By Taiye Agbaje
Abuja, June 5, 2023
Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court, Abuja, has warned those sending him private messages in the N5 billion suit filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against Sen. Stella Oduah and others to desist from intruding into his privacy.
Justice Ekwo gave the warning on Monday during the hearing of the matter.
The judge made this known after counsel for Oduah (1st defendant), Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, and lawyer to Crystal Television Ltd (7th defendant), Ogbu Onoja, SAN, informed that moves were ongoing to resolve the matter without going through trial.
The judge then said: “Somebody has been breaching my privacy on this matter by sending me messages concerning this matter saying he is part of a concerned group.
“I will send security agencies to fish him out. You cannot be intruding into my privacy.”
Justice Ekwo, who condemned the act, said his records were public documents that could be assessed by anybody after the public laws had been complied with.
Responding, prosecuting lawyer, Hassan Liman, SAN, who appeared for the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), also condemned the act.
He said even if the person was a party in the suit, he had no right to communicate with the judge.
Earlier, upon resumed proceeding in the matter, Liman told the court that the matter was slated for formal arraignment of the defendants pursuant to the order made in the last adjourned date.
He said he was ready to proceed.
But Ikpeazu said there were applications they planned to file and that they felt discussion should be had on this with the prosecution.
Onoja, who represented the 7th defendant, also informed the court that his client had approached the anti-graft commission and paid almost 95 per cent of the money alleged in the case.
“We are waiting for the commission’s response and almost about N80 million is remaining,” he said.
Liman admitted that it was true that counsel for the 7th defendant wrote to the EFCC, seeking for the discontinuance of the matter.
“I confirm also that Mr. Ikpeazu spoke to me this morning,” he said.
The lawyer, who said that the matter was filed since 2020 said though he agreed that there was reconciliation moves, he however argued that the defendants must take their plea once the matter had been filed in court.
“The money we are talking about is over N7 billion,” he added, saying it was not such amount Onoja was making allusion to.
Liman said though a letter had been written, the commission had not even considered it, despite their making the payment.
He admitted that the delay in the prosecution of the matter was not the court’s fault.
“I urge my lord to order them to take their plea,” he prayed.
Justice Ekwo, who said he was ready for the arraignment, said it would be better to dialogue with the defendants and if that failed, the trial could commence.
He consequently adjourned the matter until June 15 for report or commencement of trial.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the EFCC had sued Oduah, former Aviation Minister, alongside Gloria Odita, Nwosu Emmanuel Nnamdi and Chukwuma Irene Chinyere.
Others include Global Offshore and Marine Ltd, Tip Top Global Resources Ltd, Crystal Television Ltd, Sobora International Ltd and others.
The senator, who currently represents Anambra North Senatorial District at the National Assembly, was scheduled to be arraigned on alleged N5 billion fraud and financial misappropriation while she served as minister during President Goodluck Jonathan government.
In the 25-count charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/316/2020, they are accused of conspiracy, money laundering and maintaining anonymous bank accounts with a commercial bank.