Alleged N1.4bn fraud: New Judge withdraws from NBA President, Usoro’s criminal charge

Justice (Professor) Chuka Austin Obiozor, of the Federal High Court, Lagos, today, ‘recused’ himself in trying the President of Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Paul Usoro, who is charged before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The NBA President, Usoro was formerly arraigned before Justice Sule Hassan of the same court, on December 18, 2018, on a 10 count-charge bordering on N1.4 billion fraud.

Others named in the charge are: the incumbent governor of Akwa Ibom, Emmanuel Udom, who is described in the charge as  being “currently constitutionally immune from prosecution”, the Akwa Ibom State’s Commissioner for Finance, Accountant-General and Attorney-General, Nsikan Nkan; Mfon Udomah, Uwemedimo Nwoko and Margaret Ukpe respectively, who were said to be at large.

The EFCC in a charge marked FHC/418c/18, alleged that the accused committed the offence on May 14, 2016, adding that Usoro, conspired with others, to commit the offence within the jurisdiction of the court.

He was alleged to have conspired to convert the sum of N1.4 billion, property of Akwa Ibom State Government, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity

The prosecution through his lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, had told the court that the offence is breach of trust which contravenes the provisions of section 15 (2), 15(3), and 18 (A) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011

Usoro had pleaded not guilty to the charge and he was admitted to bail in the sum of N250 million with one surety in the like sum.

However, Justice Hassan washed off his hands from the matter and returned the case filed to the Court’s Chief Judge (CJ), for reassignment, following call on the judge to withdraw from the matter on the ground that he was formerly EFCC’s legal officer.

Upon returning the case filed to the CJ, the matter was reassigned to Justice Obiozor.

At the resumed hearing of the case today, before the plea of the defendant was taken, Justice Obiozor said: “for personal reason, I’m recusing myself from hearing this matter. I’m returning the case file to the Chief Judge of this Court for reassignment”. 

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