N3.5 billion alleged fraud: Judge’s transfer stalls trial of Saraki’s aide

Senate President, Bukola Saraki
Senate President, Bukola Saraki

The commencement of trial of Gbenga Makanjuola, an aide to the Senate President Bukola Saraki, was on Thursday stalled at the Federal High Court, Lagos following the transfer of the trial judge, Justice Babs Kuewumi.

Mr Kuewumi told parties in the suit that he had been transferred to the Sokoto division of the court, adding that it would be wiser to adjourn the case for the incoming judge to take over.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had preferred an 11-count fraud charge against Makanjuola, a Deputy Chief of Staff to Saraki, Melrose General Services Ltd., Obiorah Amobi, (Operations Manager at Melrose), and Kolawole Shittu, (a cashier).

They were accused of conspiring to disguise the unlawful origin of the sum of N3.5 billion paid into the account of Melrose.

The accused were arraigned on October 3, 2018, and had pleaded not guilty to charges, while the court had granted them bails in the sum of N250 million each, with sureties in like sums.

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The court had then adjourned the case for the prosecution to open trial.

When the case was called on Thursday, Ekene Iheanacho, announced appearance for the prosecution.

Messrs, K. T. Olaolu, Paul Erokoro (SAN), and Omeoga Chukwu, announced their appearances for the accused.

The prosecutor reminded the court that the case was slated for the prosecution to begin trial, adding that subject to the court’s convenience, he was ready to proceed

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Defence counsel also confirmed to the court that they were ready to proceed with trial.

Mr Kuewumi, however, said the court will not be ready to proceed with trial, as he had been posted out of the Lagos jurisdiction.

He said in the circumstances, it will not be wise to open the case, but to leave same for the incoming judge to handle.

Following consensus of parties, the case was consequently, adjourned until March 13, for mention.

In the charge, EFCC alleged that the accused persons committed the offences in December 2016.

According to the prosecution, the accused took control of the sum which was transferred from the Nigeria Governors Forum’s account, into an Access Bank account operated by Melrose.

The prosecution said that the accused ought to have known that the sum represented proceeds of unlawful activities.

The offences contravened the provisions of Sections 15, 15 (2), 15(3), 18, and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Amendment Act 2011.

(NAN)

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