This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: N5.2 Billion Scam - EFCC to Re-Arraign Ugbane, Elumelu, Jibo Jan 25

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has said it will on Friday re-arraign the former Chairman, Senate Committee on Power, Senator Nicholas Ugbane; his former House of Representatives counterpart, Ndudi Elumelu; and Jibo Mohammed, over an alleged N5.2 billion scam.

Similarly, the anti-graft agency Monday re-arraigned a former Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Raymond Temisan Omatseye, at the Federal High Court in Lagos for contract splitting and illegal transfer of funds to the tune of 300,000 pounds (about N73 million).

Ugbane, Elumelu and Mohammed are being prosecuted by the EFCC in a case of breach of due process, criminal conspiracy, diversion and misappropriation of public funds to the tune of N5.2 billion.

In a statement signed Monday by its spokesman, Mr. Wilson Uwujaren, the EFCC said the trio would be re-arraigned before a Federal Capital Territory High Court.

"They are expected to take fresh plea before Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi of the FCT High Court, Abuja on February 1, 2013. The re- arraignment is sequel to the re-assignment of the case, following the withdrawal of former trial judge, Justice Adebunkola Banjoko," the statement explained.

Speaking further, Uwujaren stated that "Ugbane and his co-accused were initially arraigned on October 30, 2009 on a 130-count charge together with six senior officials of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA). The charges were subsequently separated, with the lawmakers jointly facing a 62-count charge and the other six facing a 68-count charge."

"At today's session, the accused persons could not be re-arraigned owing to the absence of the third accused, Jibo Mohammed, who was neither represented nor did he give reason for his absence. This development prompted the prosecution counsel, Onjefu Obe, to pray the court for a bench warrant to effect his arrest," the statement stressed.

Obe had argued that "when an accused person in a criminal case as in the one at hand fails to appear and nothing to show why he was not in court, irrespective of who the person is, the prosecutor has the right to ask the court to issue a bench warrant against such an accused for him to come and explain why he was not present at the court."

The defence counsel, Mr. Ikwueto (SAN) whose appearance was for the second accused, came to the rescue of Jibo.

He said the third accused person was not aware of today's adjournment.

"Since the date was not communicated to him, it would be wrong for the court to issue a bench warrant against him. After ascertaining that the third accused may not have been informed about the new date, the judge asked the EFCC counsel whether he was going ahead with his earlier application. EFCC is not in court solely to prosecute but to promote justice," the counsel replied.

He, thereafter, withdrew the application to issue bench warrant on the third accused person," the stated recalled.

Meanwhile, Omatseye was re-arraigned on a 27-count charge before Justice Ofili Ajumogobia.

The former NIMASA boss had earlier been arraigned before Justice Binta Murtala-Nyako on an 11-count charge.

However, the fresh arraignment was sequel to the transfer of Justice Murtala-Nyako out of the Lagos division.

Omatseye was said to have between 2009 and 2010, transferred 300,000 pounds sterling from NIMASA's Barclays Bank Account in London without lawful approval, purportedly to fund the campaign of one Mrs. Mbanefo as Secretary-General of International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

The offence, according to the charge, was contrary to and punishable under Section 14(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria.

After reading the charges to him, Omatseye pleaded not guilty, while his lawyer, Olushina Shofola urged the court to allow him to continue with the former bail granted him by Justice Murtala-Nyako.

The judge granted the request and fixed February 7, 8 and 9 for commencement of trial.

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