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March 3, 2021

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The scheduled arraignment of a serving senator, Stella Oduah, alongside Chinese construction giant, CCECC, and six others, charged with laundering funds to the tune of N5billion, was stalled again on Monday.

The arraignment was initially stalled on February 9 due to the non-service of the charges on the defendants.

Inyang Ewko, the judge in charge of the trial at the Federal High Court in Abuja, had adjourned the case till Monday.

Hearing

Although most of the defendants were subsequently served, the prosecuting counsel, Hassan Liman, informed the judge on Monday that the prosecution still could not serve two of the defendants – Global Offshore and Marine Ltd, and Tip Top Global Resources Ltd.

Mr Liman, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, who is prosecuting the case on behalf of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), then applied to the court to have the two defendants served through their last known addresses.

The judge granted the application, ordering that “Service to be effected within 14 days of this order.”

But Mr Ekwo also reminded the prosecution that they had taken two of the five adjournments they were entitled to under the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.

When Mr Liman tried to explain away the prosecution’s lapses leading to the two adjournments as a mere pre-trial issue, the judge said, “You ought not file when you were not ready.”

Aside from the two yet-to-be-served defendants (Global Offshore and Marine Ltd, and Tip Top Global Resources Ltd), the others who had been served including Ms Oduah, a former Minister of Aviation, and senator currently representing Anambra North in the Senate, were present with their lawyers.

One of the co-defendants is Gloria Odita (2nd defendant), who is said to be an aide to Ms Oduah when she was Minister of Aviation, andcompany secretary of Sea Petroleum & Gas Company (SPGC) Limited, a firm founded by the former minister.

The rest are an employee of SPCG and aide to Ms Oduah, Nwobu Nnamdi (3rd defendant), Chukwuma Chinyere (4th defendant), Crystal Television Limited (7th defendant), and Sobora International Limited (8th defendant).

The 9th defendant is CCECC Nigeria Ltd, the Nigerian subsidiary of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) established by the Chinese government to execute international contracts and economic cooperation.

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Ms Oduah was represented by Onyechi Ikpeazu, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), and CCECC Nigeria Ltd was represented by a former Attorney-General of the Federation, Kanu Agabi, also a SAN.

The judge adjourned the arraignment till April 19.

Charges

PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the EFCC on December 17, 2020 filed the total of 25 counts accusing the defendants of laundering various sums of money totaling about N5,052,415,984 between February and June 2014.

EFCC, in the 25 counts, accused the defendants of conspiracy to commit money laundering, transferring, taking control and taking possession of proceeds of fraud, aiding and abetting money laundering and opening anonymous bank accounts.

Ms Oduah, whose ministry had contractual relationship with CCECC Nigeria Ltd while in office as the Minister of Aviation, was removed from office in February 2014 following a procurement scandal involving purchase of two amoured cars for N255million.

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