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‘N5bn fraud’: Arraignment of Stella Oduah stalled over AGF’s demand to review case

‘N5bn fraud’: Arraignment of Stella Oduah stalled over AGF’s demand to review case
November 22
21:54 2021

The arraignment of Stella Oduah, senator representing Anambra north, has been stalled owing to a letter from the office of the attorney-general of the federation (AGF) calling for a review of the case.

Oduah, a former minister of aviation, is to stand trial alongside eight others over allegations of fraud.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alleged that Oduah misappropriated public funds while serving as a minister.

Other defendants are Gloria Odita, Nwosu Emmanuel Nnamdi, Chukwuma Irene Chinyere, Global Offshore and Marine Ltd, Tip Top Global Resources Ltd, Crystal Television Ltd, Sobora International Ltd and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) Nigeria Ltd.

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They are to be arraigned on a 25-count charge bordering on alleged conspiracy, money laundering, and maintaining anonymous bank accounts with First Bank Plc.

When the defendants were about to take their plea on Monday, Oguh Onoja, a defence counsel, raised an objection.

Onoja said a petition had already been written to the AGF on the grounds that the defendants were “being persecuted”.

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He said a letter from the AGF to the EFCC had called for the review of the matter, but that the anti-graft agency had “refused to send the case file to the AGF” as requested.

Onoja then presented the certified true copy of the letter to the judge.

“My lord, we are of the strongest view that plea cannot be taken on this matter,” Onoja said.

“There was a petition written to the attorney-general of the federation which is a complaint made against this prosecution because we found out that this trial was a persecution, and we got a response from the AGF.

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“The AGF requested for the file and up till now, the EFCC has refused to send the case file to the AGF.

“This case is a matter of persecution and is not a prosecution. Based on that, we have the objection that this plea cannot be taken.”

But disagreeing, U. Uket, counsel to the EFCC, said though he was just seeing the letter, a petition could not stop a plea from being taken.

“The AGF has powers to intervene, continue or discontinue a case. The fact that a petition has been written to the AGF does not stop the plea from being taken,” Uket said.

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But the judge said a constitutional issue had been raised and he was not going to deal with it “summarily”.

“Upon this matter coming up for plea today, the attention of this court has been drawn to a letter from the chambers of AGF, dated February 4 and written to the acting chairman of the EFCC requiring that the file of this matter to be remitted to the AGF for a review of this case,” NAN quoted the judge as saying.

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“I have heard the arguments from counsel. I am not going to treat this matter lightly.

“Therefore, I make an order that the prosecution shall file and serve a written address on this matter within 30 days, which will be limited to 15 pages.

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“Learned counsel of the seventh defendant are to file a response.

“I will also order that the other learned counsel file written addresses upon being served by the prosecution.

“Now, upon that being done, I will then make an order to adjourn this matter for adoption of written address.

“The defendant shall continue on administrative bail until this issue is resolved.”

The judge adjourned the matter until February 10, 2022, for adoption of the written addresses.

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