Two lawyers accused of manipulating the 2018 Nigerian Bar Association will be re-arraigned on November 9, Tijjani Ringim, a judge of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court has said.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission charged Sarah Ajibola and John Demide with 14 counts of conspiracy and cybercrime-related offences.
The defendants were initially arraigned before Chuka Obiozor last year. Mr Obiozor has been transferred to another Judicial Division.
They pleaded not guilty to the charges.
At the resumed hearing of the charges against the defendants on Tuesday, the court was told lawyers for the prosecution, the EFCC, were absent. The accused were, however, represented by the trio of N. Oragwu, A. Abdulsalam and S. Soladoye.
The absence of the prosecution and the fact that the matter came up before the court for the first time made the judge adjourn till November 9 for the re-arraignment of the defendants.
The EFCC in a charge marked FHC/L/118c/2020 accused the defendants of manipulating about 1004 eligible votes, that gave Paul Usoro, a senior advocate of Nigeria, victory over the other contenders.
The EFCC’s prosecutor, Bilikisu Bala, had told the court that the defendants in August 2018, conspired among themselves and altered both the email addresses and phone numbers of about 1004 eligible voters for the national elections of NBA, which they acted upon as genuine.
The two lawyers were alleged to have committed the act to favour Mr Usoro.
Some of the voters’ names allegedly falsified by the two lawyers include: Gabriel Abijo Oladipo with Supreme Court of Nigeria (SCN) No. 043280; Uthman Adeleye Oluwaseun with SCN No. 088449; David Anakor SCN No. 015233; Chiagoziem Bethel Aninilu, SCN No. 114439 and Bankole Isaac Toyin with SCN no. 024643.
The offences, according to the prosecutor, are contrary to and punishable under sections 27(1)(b), 13, 22(2), 22(3) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention etc) Act, 2015.
Count one of the charges against the two lawyers read: “that you, Sarah Omeigha Ajibola and John Ozovehe Demide sometime in August 2018, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to knowingly alter the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of about 1004 National (One Thousand and Four) eligible voters of the Nigerian Bar Association 2018 elections with the intention that such inauthentic data will be acted upon as genuine during the said election and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 27(1)(b} of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention etc) ACT, 2015 and punishable under Section 13 of the same Act.
Another count reads: “that you, John Ozovehe Demide sometime on the 19th day of August 7, 2018, within the jurisdiction of this Court fraudulently used the unique identification features such as Name and Supreme Court Enrolment Number 509043280 of one Gabriel Abijo Oladipo to vote as the same Gabriel Abijo Oladipo through your Smite modem on IP address 126.96.36.199 to vote with intent of gaining electoral advantage in favour of Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) who was one of the Presidential Aspirants during the 2018 Nigerian Bar Association elections and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 12 (1) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition, Prevention etc) ACT, 2015, under the same Act.
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