By Bisi LAWAL
A former Minister of Aviation, Senator Stella Oduah, was on Friday arraigned before Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on a 25-count charge.
Oduah, who served as Aviation Minister from 2011 to 2014, is facing trial over an allegation that she laundered public funds to the tune of about 7.9billion, in connivance with eight others.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC equally arraigned 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 in the charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/316/20.
However, the defendants, who were docked before trial Justice Ekwo, pleaded not guilty to the charge, when it was read to them in the open court.
The anti-graft agency, among other things, alleged that Oduah, who also represented Anambra North in the Senate and Odita, who was identified as her aid and the Company Secretary to Sea Petroleum & Gas Company Ltd (SPGC), had in February 2014, used their positions to transfer the sum of 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 also domiciled with First Bank Plc, which money they reasonably ought to have known that it 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 equally 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.”
Following the defendants’ plea of innocence to all the allegations, trial Justice Ekwo allowed them to go home on the administrative bail the EFCC earlier granted to them.
More so, the court directed the EFCC transfer the case file to the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation to ensure diligent prosecution of the defendants.
Justice Ekwo adjourned the case till October 17 for trial.
Recall that though the charge was filed since 2020, the EFCC was unable to arraign the defendants owing to a petition they wrote to the immediate past Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN.
Malami had urged the court to put the trial on hold to enable him to review the case file.
However, he subsequently gave the EFCC the nod to go ahead with trial of the defendants.