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EFCC witness: Udom spent N1.4bn state funds defending election victory at tribunal

EFCC witness: Udom spent N1.4bn state funds defending election victory at tribunal
November 13
13:54 2020

A witness presented by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has told a federal high court in Lagos that Udom Emmanuel, governor of Akwa Ibom, spent N1.4 billion from the state’s treasury to settle legal fees at the election tribunal where his victory was challenged in 2015.

Abdulraman Arabo, an investigating officer of the EFCC, was speaking at the resumed trial of Paul Usoro, immediate past president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), on Thursday.

Usoro is facing a six-count charge bordering on alleged diversion of public funds worth N1.4 billion.

Standing trial alongside the former NBA president are Nsikan Nkan, Akwa Ibom state commissioner for finance; Mfon Udomah, the state’s accountant-general; Uwemedimo Nwoko, attorney-general and commissioner for justice; and Margaret Ukpe, a cashier at the Akwa Ibom state government house.

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According to Arabo, Emmanuel hired Usoro who in turn engaged other senior advocates of Nigeria (SAN) to represent the governor at the tribunal.

Arabo said the N1.4 billion legal fee paid to the SANs was drawn from the treasury of the Akwa Ibom state’s account.

The witness added that Usoro gave back N55 million from the N1.4 billion to the state’s attorney-general.

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Usman Buhari, EFCC counsel, tendered Usoro’s Access Bank account package as an exhibit to corroborate Arabo’s testimony.

The prosecution also tendered the statements made to the EFCC by the other senior advocates whom Usoro had engaged in Emmanuel’s election petition.

The court admitted the statements as exhibits.

Cross-examining the witness, Offiong Offiong, Usoro’s lawyer, asked: “During your investigation, did you see that the money in issue was for legal fees of the service rendered to governor Udom?”

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Responding, Arabo said: “It is a payment made from government treasury for personal election tribunal pursuit of the governor.”

Offiong said the claims made by the witness was “scandalous”.

In response, the EFCC witness said: “My lord, what I said in my evidence-in-chief was that this defendant (Usoro) lodged the sum of N55 million into the account of Akwa Ibom state government attorney-general and commissioner for justice, Uwemedimo Nwoko.”

Mohammed Aikawa, the presiding judge, adjourned the matter to January 18, 19, and 20, 2021 for further proceedings.

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