From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has failed in its sixth attempt to arraign a former Minister of Aviation, Senator Stella Oduah on N7.9 billion money laundering charges before the Abuja division of the Federal High Court.
Although Mrs Odua was personally present in court along with her co-defendants, she could not be put in the dock, following the inability of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) to give a definite go ahead with the arraignment.
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At yesterday’s proceedings, prosecution counsel, Dr Hassan Liman (SAN), tendered a letter from the AGF’s office and demanded that the accused persons be ordered to take their pleas.
He drew the attention of the court to the fact that the charge against them was filed since December 17, 2020 by the Federal Government, while efforts to arraign them have been unsuccessful.
Liman’s attention was, however, drawn to a portion in the AGF’s letter of May 6, 2022, to the effect that his office was still looking into the issues raised by one of the defendants in the matter.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, who was to give order for the plea to be taken, insisted that the AGF be given time to take a definite position, in order not to embark on an exercise that may be in futility in the end.
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Other senior lawyers standing for the defendants agreed with the court that the AGF be given another time to complete his actions on the case file and issue necessary directives.
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Justice Ekwo subsequently fixed October 12 and 13 for the pleas of the defendants to be taken and for trial.
Senator Oduah’s planned arraignment had, before now, been stalled five times due to her initial persistent absence in court.
Justice Ekwo had, on July 12, threatened to issue a warrant of arrest against her, should she fail to make herself available for arraignment on the then adjourned date of October 19, 2021.
The EFCC, in the charges, alleged that Mrs Oduah misappropriated the N7.9 billion public funds while serving as a minister under former president Goodluck Jonathan’s regime.
Other defendants are Gloria Odita, Nwosu Emmanuel Nnamdi, Chukwuma Irene Chinyere, Global Offshore and Marine Limited, Tip Top Global Resources Limited, Crystal Television Limited, Sobora International Limited, and a foreign construction company.