The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Tuesday asked for a separate trial of former Governor of Enugu State, Chimaroke Nnamani, in a N5 billion money laundering case.
Mr. Nnamani is facing trial alongside seven others accused on a 105-count charge before a Federal High Court in Lagos.
The other accused are: Sunday Anyaogu, Rainbownet (Nig) Ltd, Hillgate (Nig) Ltd, Cosmos Fm, Capital City Automobile (Nig) Ltd, Renaissance University Teaching Hospital and Mea Mater Elizabeth High School.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Tuesday, the prosecutor, Kevin Uzozie, argued that the matter had been stalled severally on account of Mr. Nnamani’s frequent applications to travel abroad for medical treatment.
Mr. Uzozie said that from the records of the court, it was clear that Mr. Nnamani had always applied to court for leave to travel out of the country on grounds of ill-health.
“It is a scandal that a criminal case which the law says must be speedily concluded has not even proceeded to trial seven years after it was filed,” he said.
In his application to separate the trial, Mr. Uzozie urged the court to accept his arguments so that Mr. Nnamani’s frequent medical trips abroad would no longer stall the trial of his co- accused.
In the application brought pursuant to Section 155 of the Criminal Procedure Act, 2004, the prosecutor urged the court to allow the trial of Mr. Nnamani and his former aide, Sunday Anyaogu, to be conducted separately.
He argued that the application became necessary following the need for a speedy conclusion to be arrived at in respect of the assets and liabilities of the six companies, which were corporate entities.
Mr. Uzozie said that the assets might become obsolete and seriously eroded if the companies were not separately tried.
He, therefore, submitted that there was need for the court to decisively address the scandal which had stalled the case for about seven years.
Responding, defence counsel, Ricky Tarfa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, adopted his counter-affidavit to the application.
He argued that the application, if granted, would disrupt the fair trial for Mr. Nnamani.
Mr. Tarfa argued that contrary to EFCC’s allegations, Mr. Nnamani had always made himself available for trial after the completion of each phase of medical treatment abroad.
According to him, the trips were aimed at facilitating his recovery process.
He also noted that on many occasions, the matter had been adjourned at the instance of the EFCC, and so it was wrong to allege that his client had been using the medical trips to delay the matter.
Mr. Tarfa further argued that the accused would be severely prejudiced if the application is granted, and that no assets would be eroded as canvassed by the EFCC.
After listening to the arguments from both counsel, Justice Mohammed Yunusa fixed December 16 for ruling.
The accused were re-arraigned before Yunusa on March 7, 2013, following the transfer of the previous judge, Justice Charles Archibong.
They had pleaded not guilty to the charge, while Mr. Yunusa had allowed them to continue with the earlier bail terms granted by Archibong.
In the charge, the accused were alleged to have laundered various sums of money to the tune of N5 billion and had lodged same in a secret account.
It was also alleged that Mr. Nnamani 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 He was alleged to have stolen N1.4 billion from the Excess Crude Oil Funds allocated to local governments in the state.
Besides, it was alleged that the accused, through the help of one Chinero Nwigwe, who is now at large, fraudulently transferred millions of dollars of Enugu State’s funds, to his personal accounts in the United States.
These offences were allegedly committed while Nnamani held sway as Governor of Enugu State between 1999 and 2007.
The alleged offence is said to contravene the provisions of the Money laundering (prohibition) Act, 2004.