Wednesday, December 19, 2018

NBA President Arraigned Over N1.4bn Alleged Fraud, Gets N250m Bail As He Seeks Change Of Judge

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission yesterday arraigned the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Paul Usoro (SAN), for an alleged N1.4bn fraud.

Usoro was arraigned on 10 counts before the Federal High Court in Lagos. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

He was subsequently admitted to N250m bail by Justice Muslim Hassan, following an application by his legal team led by Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN).

The N250m bail is with one surety in like sum.

The judge said the surety must be a civil servant not below a director in the civil service.

The judge, however, released Usoro to a member of his legal team, Chief Bassey Effiong (SAN), pending when he would meet the bail conditions.

Prior to the arraignment, Olanipekun had informed the judge about a December 17, 2018 letter, which Usoro wrote to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdul-Kafarati, seeking the transfer of his case from Justice Hassan for an undisclosed reason.

Olanipekun said Usoro would want the case transferred to either Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, or Abuja. He said if the case would remain in Lagos, it should be transferred to “any other honourable judge apart from my noble Lord.”

Olanipekun described Usoro’s request as innocuous, arguing that he had a right to make the request.

He urged Justice Hassan to wait for the decision of the CJ on Usoro’s request before proceeding with the case.

But the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, opposed the prayer, noting that the order of the court adjourning till Tuesday for arraignment had not been set aside.

“My Lord cannot act in anticipation of a yet-to-be-taken administrative decision of the Chief Judge to keep this matter in limbo,” the EFCC argued, urging the judge to allow Usoro to be arraigned.

While urging the judge to save the court’s judicial time, Oyedepo argued that Usoro would lose nothing if after he was arraigned the Chief Judge granted his request and transferred the case.

In a ruling, Justice Hassan held that he had no jurisdiction to look into the merit or otherwise of Usoro’s letter to the chief judge, and as such he would wait for the decision of the Chief Justice before going with case.