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Senator Stella Oduah, the former Minister of Aviation, was presented with a daunting 25-count charge by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, during a Federal High Court session held in Abuja on Friday.
The trial of Senator Stella Oduah, the ex-Aviation Minister, has commenced, and the accusations against her and eight others are nothing short of tremendous – a mind-boggling 7.9 billion Naira laundered from public coffers.
Among the accused, mentioned in the charge with reference number FHC/ABJ/CR/316/20, are Gloria Odita, Nwosu Emmanuel Nnamdi, Chukwuma Irene Chinyere, Global Offshore and Marine Ltd, Tip Top Global Resources Ltd, Crystal Television Ltd, and Sobora International Ltd.
The defendants, before trial Justice Inyang Ekwo, asserted their innocence and pleaded not guilty in the open court.
Among other things, the anti-graft agency accused Oduah, who served as a senator representing Anambra North, and Odita, identified as her aid and the Company Secretary to Sea Petroleum & Gas Company Ltd (SPGC).
In February 2014, they allegedly misused their positions to transfer N1,629,250,000.00 from I-Sec Security Nig. Ltd account No. 2021756955 with First Bank Plc to Global Offshore and Marine Ltd account No. 2022977296, both accounts domiciled with First Bank Plc. The agency claimed that they should have known the money formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.
The defendants were accused of opening a naira ‘anonymous Private Banking Nominee Account No. 2024414450 with First Bank Plc and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 11(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (As Amended) and punishable under Section 11(4) (a) of the same Act.’
They were also accused of opening a United State dollar ‘anonymous Private Banking Nominee account No. 2024414498 with First Bank Plc and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 11(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (As Amended) and punishable under Section 1 1(4) (a) of the same Act.’
Trial Justice Ekwo, in light of the defendants’ plea of innocence to all the allegations, decided to release them on the administrative bail, which had been previously accorded to them by the EFCC.
In addition, the court mandated the EFCC to forward the case file to the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation to guarantee the diligent prosecution of the defendants.
The case was adjourned for trial by Justice Ekwo, with the new trial date being October 17.
It is worth noting that the charge had been filed in 2020, but the EFCC encountered obstacles in arraigning the defendants due to a petition they had addressed to the former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN.
Malami requested that the court temporarily suspend the trial, expressing the need to review the case file.
Later on, he greenlit the EFCC to go ahead with the trial of the defendants.