LawPolitics

N4BN FRAUD: Anambra Govt Kicks Against EFCC’s Trial Of Obiano

Obiano

The Anambra State Government has opposed the trial of the immediate-past governor of the state, Willie Obiano, by the  Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

The EFCC on January 24 arraigned Obiano on nine charges bordering on N4bn theft.

In the charges, the EFCC accused Obiano of diverting Anambra State’s security votes to the tune of N4,008,573,350 while he was governor between 2014 and 2022.

Following his arraignment before the Federal High Court in Abuja, Justice Inyang Ekwo allowed him to continue on the administrative bail granted him by the EFCC but restricted the ex-governor’s movement to Abuja.

Justice Ekwo ordered the EFCC to deposit Obiano’s travel documents with the court registrar.

A day after the arraignment, the incumbent Anambra State  Governor, Chukwuma Soludo, paid Obiano in Abuja.

Taking to his Facebook page, Soludo wrote: “Today,  in the company of the APGA National Chairman, Ezeokenwa Sly Jr, I paid a solidarity visit to my respected predecessor, Chief Willie Obiano, in Abuja.

“The two-hour chat was valuable time well spent. By His grace, this one too shall pass.”

At the resumed proceedings in the trial on Thursday, Obiano’s lawyer, Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), informed Justice Ekwo that the Anambra State government was opposed to Obiano’s trial by the EFCC.

The SAN informed the court of a March 3 appeal filed by state government to challenge the authority of the EFCC to investigate and try Obiano.

Ikpeazu said, “The subject matter of the charge bothers on accountability for security votes funds.

The honourable court lacks the requisite jurisdiction to entertain issues on accountability for security votes funds.

“There is an appeal filed by the Anambra State Government challenging the powers of the EFCC to investigate the security vote of the Anambra State Government.  The preferment of the entire charge is in bad faith.”

Ikepazu also stated that there was no testimony from any witness indicating that Obiano issued directives for the disbursement of security votes and other funds belonging to the Anambra State government.

He said, “No evidence exists from any witness showing that defendant/applicant passed down directives on the disbursements of security votes and other funds belonging to Anambra State Government.

“The defendant/applicant cannot be made answerable for any purported unlawful actions of officials of Anambra State Government as there is no vicarious liability in our criminal jurisprudence.

“The thinking and conclusion of the prosecution on the counts arose from speculation and suspicion. This honourable court has inherent judicial powers to grant all the reliefs sought above.”

Meanwhile, the N4bn theft trial was stalled for the second time on Thursday over the inability of Obiano’s lawyer to respond to a counter-affidavit filed by the prosecution.

The matter, which was initially slated for hearing on March 5, had stalled over Obiano’s motion challenging the territorial jurisdiction of the court to hear the matter.

 Justice Ekwo had then adjourned till Thursday to hear the motion.

However, at the resumed proceedings on Thursday, the EFCC prosecutor,  Sylvanus Tahir (SAN), told the court that he initially found it difficult to serve the processes on Obiano’s lead counsel, Ikpeazu, whose office he said was locked at the time he visited.

The prosecution counsel told the court that he subsequently called another lawyer in Ikpeazu’s chambers, who notified him that his principal was engaged at a Governorship Election Petition Tribunal.

He, however, said he was able to serve both the counter-affidavit and the written address on the defendant.

However, the counsel, who represented Obiano in court, Patrick Ikweto (SAN), informed the court that he just got the EFCC’s processes and needed to study them and file his reply.

Justice Ekwo subsequently adjourned the matter till March 13.