Court orders permanent release of NBA president international passport

A Federal High Court, Lagos, on Wednesday, varied the bail conditions granted the president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro (SAN) and ordered permanent release of his international passport.

Justice Rilwan Aikawa also directed the defendant to inform the office of the acting chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) each time he wants to travel out of the country. 

The court’s decision followed an application filed and moved by lead counsel for the defendant, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) to that effect.

Counsel for the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo did not oppose the application but urged the court to rule that the defendant drop the passport whenever he returns from a journey.

He argued that it would be difficult to have the defendant in court if his travel schedule clashes with court date. 

But Olanipekun assured that court proceedings would prevail over oversea travels whenever there is a clash.

Usoro is facing a 10 counts charge of money laundering leveled against him by the EFCC. 

The anti graft agency accused him of laundering N1.4 billion belonging to Akwa Ibom State Government, a charge the defendant had consistently denied, saying the money was part of his legitimately earned professional fees. 

Before the ruling for the release of the international passport, the judge had adjourned to May 10 to enable the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom state, Uwemedimo Nwoko and three others mentioned in the body of the charge respond to a counter motion filed by the prosecution.

Lead counsel to the AG, Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) said he needed time to respond to the EFCC’s motion against his application for the vacation of bench warrant, which he received on April 15. 

He insisted that he needed some time to respond to even more grievous allegations made by the prosecution. 

Also, counsel for Akwa Ibom governor, Dr. Charles Mekwunye noted that he filed his clients application challenging the courts jurisdiction on March 3, but received EFCC’s reply April 15, adding that he is putting together his response to the EFCC. 

Oyedepo, however argued that the proceedings are being regulated by the ACJA and that in the nation’s criminal jurisprudence, there is no law, except specific direction of court, that compels a party to file a written address.

He added that the allegations were not different from the ones in the body of the charge and urged the court to note that the adjournment was not at his instance. 

But Ozekhome, who also refused to take responsibility for the adjournment insisted that he is ready to proceed if the prosecution chooses to drop his motion. However, the judge intervened and ruled that further proceedings will commence May 10. 

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