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Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Alleged N805m Fraud: Judge Hands Off Senator Nwaoboshi Trial

Alleged N805m Fraud: Judge Hands Off Senator Nwaoboshi Trial

Senator Peter Nwaoboshi

A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday hands off the trial of the Senator representing Delta North in the National Assembly, Senator Peter Nwaoboshi following the insistence of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) that the matter be reassigned to another judge.

Justice Mohammed Idris, who was elevated to the Court of Appeal after the case had begun, had earlier held in a ruling that both the prosecution and the defence must agree for him to have jurisdiction to continue to adjudicate on the case.

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But EFCC maintained that at parties in a matter cannot by consent confer jurisdiction on the court where none exist.

Based on the development Justice Idris had directed that the case file be taken away for reassignment to another judge, despite the fiat given to him by the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Adamu Bulkachuwa, to conclude the case.

The EFCC was opposed to the continuous hearing of the matter by the judge on the ground that it does not satisfy the requirement of Section 494 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) as a ‘part heard’ matter.

This view was dismissed by Nwaoboshi’s lawyer, Dr. Victoria Azinge (SAN), who expressed the readiness of her client to face his trial, so that he can know his fate as soon as possible.

In a ruling on the contentious issue, Justice Idris agreed with the anti-graft agency that the case does not fulfill the requirement of Section 494 of ACJA.

He however expressed his readiness to conclude the case as long as parties agreed that he should do so.

He said: “The judiciary is ready, my court is ready, the defence is ready but it does not seem that the prosecution is ready to go on with this matter.

”I am ready to sit from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday next week to conclude the matter for the prosecution.

”The ACJA is clear on the issue of delays. It is to eliminate unacceptable delays”.After the ruling on July 31, the EFCC promised to revert back to the court on where it stands.

However, at the resumed hearing of the matter yesterday, the anti-graft lawyer informed the court that the commission is not willing to proceed with the case.

“We don’t want to proceed with trial on the basis that parties cannot by consent confer jurisdiction on the court where none exist”, she said.

Responding, Nwaoboshi’s lawyer described the EFCC’s action as unfortunate saying it is contrary to the spirit behind ACJA which sought speedy conclusion of criminal trials.

Justice Idris later directed that the case file be taken away for reassignment to another judge.

Nwaoboshi was on April 25 docked by the EFCC on a two-count charge of money laundering and fraud alongside two companies, Golden Touch Construction Project Ltd and Suiming Electrical Ltd, over alleged N322 million fraud.

He had pleaded not guilty to the charges and was granted bail by the trial judge on self-recognisance as a serving senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The trial commenced on June 20 when the prosecution (EFCC), opened its case and called two witnesses in evidence who were subsequently cross-examined.

In the charge marked, FHC/L/117C/2018, the EFCC alleged that the defendants committed the offences between May and June 2014 in Lagos.

Nwaoboshi was said to have acquired a property described as Guinea House, Marine Road, in Apapa Lagos, for the sum of N805 million when he reasonably ought to have known that N322 million out of the purchase sum formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act.

The money was said to have been transferred to the vendors by the order of Suiming Electrical Ltd. Suiming Electrical was also alleged to have on May 14, 2014, aided Nwaoboshi and Golden Touch to commit money laundering.

The offences contravened the provisions of Sections 15(2), (d) , 15 (3) and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011.

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