By Akin Kuponiyi
A Federal high court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos State south west Nigeria today adjourned till 4th of December, 2017 when the former Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani will be re-arraigned before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for alleged money laundering of N4.5 billion during his tenure as the Governor of the state
When the case was mentioned today, a lawyer M. Bamidele from the law firm of Ricky Tarfa who represented the defendant told the court that, his chamber was served with hearing notice six days ago, but the time was too short for Chimaroke Nnamani to be in court as the defendant was not in the country and they have not been able to get in touch with him.
The prosecutor Kelvin Uzozie was also not in court,but wrote a letter to the court asking for adjournment. Consequently the court adjourned till 4th of December, 2017,when the former Governor would be arraigned.
However, the defense counsel Bamidele, objected to the date, on the ground that it may be
difficult to get in touch with the defendant before that day but the Presiding Judge Proffesor Chuka Obizor frowned at his objection, as he observed that this may be a ploy to delay the trial,as he claimed that the case has just been assigned to him, therefore the counsel should take steps to make sure that his client come back to face trial, thereafter Justice Obiozor adjourned till 4th and 14th of December, 2017 for arraignment and trial.
This fresh arraignment is coming ten years after the ex-governor and others were first arraigned before the court in connection with the alleged offence .
Nnamani was earlier arraigned before Justice Tijani Abubakar and re-arraigned before Justice Charles Archibong when Tijani Abubakar was elevated to court of appeal and later re-arraigned before Mohammed Yinusa when Justice Archibong retired.
The former Governor was re -arraigned on a 105-count charge of money laundering and economic crime to the tune of N4.5 billion.
The case has just been reassigned to Justice (Professor ) Chuka Obiozor to start afresh.
The ex-governor was arraigned before the court alongside his ex-aide, Sunday Anyaogu and six firms linked to them.
They are: Rainbownet Nig Ltd, Hillgate Nig Ltd, Cosmos FM, Capital City Automobile Nig Ltd, Renaissance University Teaching Hospital and Mea Mater Elizabeth High School.
Mr Bamidele told the court that as of today only Chimaroke Nnamani is the only defendant in the charge as the companies have been convicted.
The alleged financial impropriety was alleged to have been committed while Nnamani held sway as governor of Enugu state between 1999 and 2007.
Nnamani, according to the charge, was alleged to have conspired with other accused persons to launder various statutory allocations of some local government areas of Enugu State.
The local governments are: Aninri, Enugu South, Agwu, Igbo Etiti and Isi Uzor.
In count nine, Nnamani was alleged to have stole N1.4 billion from the Excess Crude Oil Funds allocated to the local governments in the state.
Besides, the former governor, through the help of one Chinero Nwigwe, who is now at large,was alleged to have fraudulently transferred millions of dollars of Enugu State funds to his personal accounts in the United States of America.
One of the counts reads; “That you Chimaroke Nnamani, Sunday Onyeakazuru Anyaogu, Rainbownet Nig Ltd, Hillgate Nig Ltd, Cosmos FM, Capital City Automobile Nig Ltd, Renaissance University Teaching Hospital and Mea Mater Elizabeth High School, sometime in March 2007, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court, did transfer $1, 556, 994.02 ($1.5m) to the foreign account in the United States of America (in which Chimaroke Nnamani and Chinero Nwigwe are sole signatories to the account) which sum you knew represented the proceeds of crime with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds of the said crime and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 14 (1) of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.”
They all pleaded not guilty, while their lawyer, Ricky Tarfa (SAN) applied for their Bail and they have been on bail since.
However, on 19 May 2015 four companies associated with the former Enugu State governor, Chimaroke Nnamani, pleaded guilty, consequently the EFCC prosecutor urged the court to convict them and make order forfeiting them to the Federal Government.
The four companies – Rainbownet Nigeria Limited, Cosmos FM, Capital City Automobile Nigeria Limited and Renaissance University Teaching Hospital – were convicted by the trial judge, Mohammed Yinusa, after pleading guilty to a 10-count amended charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission. Counsel to the anti-graft agency, Kelvin Uzozie, prayed the court to make an order of final forfeiture of the companies based on their plea.
On the 7th of July, 2015. Justice Yinusa on reviewing the facts before him convicted the companies and made an order of final forfeiture of their assets to the Federal Government of Nigeria, citing provision of the EFCC Establishment Act on Final Forfeiture
All the properties are located across the five states in the South East geopolitical zone of Nigeria.
Among them are 22 Duplex buildings in Ebeano Under Tunnel Estate now known as Fidelity Estate; Renaissance University Teaching Hospital; Cosmos 105.5 FM Digital Station (Ceuna Communications); and Capital City Automobile Limited, located at 12 Station Road ,GRA, Enugu.
Others are properties of Hill Gate Investment which include: Plot Number H12, H13, H14, H15, H21`, H116, H188, Plot 10, Plot H11, Plot H16, Plot H17, Plot H18, Plot 19, Plot H20, Plot H49, Plot H50, Plot H117, CP/4 (HCR2), CP5 (HCR2) CP/6(HCR2) CP/7 (HCR2) CP/8.
The assets also include several undeveloped property and plots of land of Rainbownet Nigeria Limited in Enugu, Abakaliki, Aba, Owerri, Onitsha, Awka and Umuahia.
Also, property of Rainbownet Communication which include BTS, Microwave Avenue Radio, Rectifiere, and many equipment in various sites in Anambra State were forfeited to the Federal Government.
Aside these landed properties, worth over N35 million from the frozen bank accounts of the companies were forfeited to the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Thereafter Mr. Uzozie said the anti graft agency had sought for a separate trial of the companies as the first accused person, Dr. Nnamani, had stalled proceedings of the trial on account of frequent application to travel abroad for medical treatment on grounds of ill-health.