Thursday, February 27, 2020 2:45 pm
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos south west Nigeria today adjourned till 6th of March,2020,to decide whether the former chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, Professor Maurice Iwu standing trial before the court on charges of laundering N1.23billion can be tried in Lagos or not.
The counsel to the former INEC Boss, Mr. Hamed Raji, SAN, in an application filed and argued before the court challenging territorial jurisdiction of the court, urged the court to transfer the case to Abuja, on the ground that the offence alleged to have been committed took place in Abuja. Aside this, the defendant resides in Abuja and any time the matter comes up in Lagos, the defendant spends money on transportation, hotel accommodation and goes through a lot of stress.
However, the EFCC prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, in his counter argument in opposition to the application,told the court that, in the new Administration of criminal justice system, only the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court has the power to transfer any case from one division of the court to another division, all the witnesses the prosecution intends to call are all Lagos based, the investigating Police Officer, the officers of the banks to give evidence are in Lagos.
Mr Oyedepo argued further that the alleged offence committed by Maurice Iwu touches the economy of Nigeria, therefore he can be tried in any part of the country,consequently he urge the court not to grant Iwu’s request.
After listening to the submission of the two parties, the presiding Judge, Nicholas Oweibo adjourned till 6th of March, 2020,for ruling.
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission re-arraigned Iwu, over alleged fraud of laundering N1.23billion on four counts before the Federal High Court in Lagos, Lagos state, south west Nigeria.
When the charge was read to him, he pleaded not guilty. Thereafter, his counsel, Mr A. A. Usman, in an oral application, urged the court to allow him to continue on his former bail which he was granted when he was first arraigned before the court.
Mr Usmam further told the court that since Iwu was granted bail he has kept to the terms of the bail, The EFCC prosecutor, Barrister Rotimi Oyedepo did not raise any objection
The presiding Judge Nicholas Oweibo ecceded to the request.
In the charges, filed against the former INEC boss, the anti graft agency alleged that Iwu committed the offence in the build-up to the 2015 general elections in which President Muhammadu Buhari defeated the then incumbent President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
Iwu between December 2014 and March 27, 2015, was alleged to have aided the concealment of N1.23billion in the account of Bioresources Institute of Nigeria Limited with number 1018603119, domiciled in the United Bank for Africa., the money he ought to have reasonably known to him that the N1.23billion formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: fraud.”
It was further stated that the offence committed by the ex-INEC chairman is contrary to sections 18(a) and 15 (2) (a) of the Money Laundering ((Prohibition) Act 2011 and was liable to be punished under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
Iwu was admitted to bail in the sum of N1 billion with two sureties in like sum.
The first surety must be resident in Lagos State and must also show evidence of ownership of property in Lagos State and furnish the court with evidence of payment of three years . As proof of address, the surety shall furnish the court with his statement of account with any bank in Nigeria with passport photograph. The bank shall depose to the photograph as true identity of the account holder.
The defendant and sureties shall provide two of their recent passports for court record. The defendant shall cease all manner of communication either directly or by proxy with any of the witnesses the prosecution might intends to call in this matter.
“The second surety must be a civil servant in the state within the grade level 16 or a professor in any of the universities in Nigeria. The second surety shall provide proof of tax for three years prior to today. Must be resident in Lagos and as proof of address, he shall provide statement of account to which a passport photograph will be attached which the bank shall depose as the true identity of the account holder.
“The defendant shall keep the original copy of his international passport with this court and shall not travel outside the country without the approval of this court. Deputy registrar of the Lagos division shall verify all documents submitted by the defendant and sureties.