The former Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan, on Domestic Affairs, Dr. Waripamo-Owei Emmanuel Dudafa, today, pleaded not guilty to the 22 counts amended charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged N1.6bn fraud.
Also, Dudafa’s co-defendant, Iwejuo Joseph Nna, equally pleaded not to the amended charge.
The plea of the two defendants were retaken on the amended charge dated November 9, 2018, after Justice Mohammed Idris, had ruled that the prosecution can amend charge before judgment of any case.
Delivering ruling either to allow the amended charge or to dismissing it, Justice Idris held that an amendment was permissible by law at any time before judgment, adding that once there is an amendment, the accused are expected to plead to same.
“Section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, allows the court to conclude part heard matters within reasonable time, and I have no doubt that this falls within the ambit of the law.
“This court is sitting pursuant to a flat, and this fiat is not open ended, but will expire after its time, and the trial will begin de novo before another judge.
“The defendants are at liberty to call or recall any witness in the case; in my opinion, a reasonable time is when the time for justice does not wear out against the parties, but is seen to be done”, Justice Idris ruled
Following court’s ruling on the amended charge, Ademola Adefolaju and Mr. Olusegun Ehuwa, counsel to the first and second defendants, pleaded with the court for an adjournment to enable their principals, Mr. Gboyega Oyewole (SAN) and Ige Asemudara, be in court when the plea of the defendants would be taken. But their request was turned down, and the presiding judge ordered that the amended charge be read to the defendants for their plea to be taken.
Both Dudafa and Nna however pleaded not guilty to the amended charge.
The matter has been adjourned till Monday 19, for continuation of trial
The EFCC had closed its case on March 16, but the defendants opted to make a no-case submission in its defence.
In the charge, EFCC alleged that the accused on June 11, 2013, conspired to conceal the sum of N1.6billion, which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of proceeds of unlawful act.
The offences contravenes the provisions of sections 15 (2), 15(3), and 18 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2012.
The EFCC had sometimes last year arraigned the defendants on 23 counts charge of offences bordering on conspiracy to conceal the sum of N1.667, 162, 800 billion, which was allegedly form parts of proceed of unlawful act.
Dudafa was particularly charged for taken possession of some amount of money without going through financial institutions. And failure to furnish any information in relation to some monies in some companies.
While Nna was alleged to have forged some cheques, which were used to induced to debit the companies linked to Dudafa.
Upon conclusion of prosecution’s case, the defendants opted for no case submission and it was refused by the court, while they were ordered to open their defence.
During the trial, Nna in his testimony, had insisted that he only acted as an account officer to some companies listed in the charge.
He blamed EFCC for his travail saying his refusal to implicate Dudafa landed him in trouble.
“Upon my arrival at the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), when I was invited, I was told by some EFCC’s operatives that I was not the target of their investigation but Dudafa.
“They added that if I cooperate with them, I will be left off the hook, but if I refused to implicate the first defendant (Dudafa), I will be prosecuted for the sins of another person.
“I told them that I can’t understand what they mean and they ask me if I have a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who would be ready to defend me and that I should be prepared for the consequences if I refused to cooperate”, he said.
In his own evidence, Dudafa said the N1.6 billion linked to him by the EFCC was proceeds of donations towards a church project.
Dudafa told Justice Idris that the money was part of the N6 billion realized from the launching towards the building of St. Stephen’s Youth Development Centre, Otuoke, by the Anglican Communion of Otuoke community.
He said: “From my interactions with former President Goodluck Jonathan, I know that the funds were proceeds of a launching that was conducted by the Anglican Communion of Otuoke community for the building of St. Stephen’s Youth Development Centre, Otuoke. The launching which was done in Lagos on March 16, 2013, was organized by the former president as a member of the Anglican Communion and the grand patron.
“About N6 billion was realized from the event. Several persons made various donations at the event while the chief launcher, Prince Arthur Eze, donated $10 million (about N1.8 billion). The donation by the chief launcher was a pledge which he promised to fulfill in piece-meal.
“When Prince Eze started redeeming his pledge in piece-meal, the former president directed that I get somebody in the private sector that will be able to keep the fund.
“I then brought in a friend, Somprie Omiebi, who later opened an account with a bank in Bayelsa. The naira denominated account was opened to keep Prince Eze’s money.
“Anytime Prince Eze brought any money, the former president will direct that I link up with a Bureau De Change (BDC) operator who will remit the money directly to the account opened by Somprie Omiebi.
“The companies listed in the charge are not known to me and I am not a signatory to their accounts. I am also not a Director. I know Somprie Omiebi as someone in the private sector that brought those accounts and the companies to the former president and his wife for the safekeeping of their money”.