Obiano’s ‘N4bn fraud’ case gets hearing date

The Federal High Court, Abuja has fixed March 7 to hear a motion filed by former Anambra Governor, Willie Obiano.

Obiano is challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the alleged N4 billion fraud charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC).

Blueprint reports that the former Anambra governor was arraigned on January 24 on a nine-count charge bordering on alleged money laundering to the tune of N4 billion but he pleaded not guilty to all counts when the charge was read to him.

At the resumed hearing of the case on Monday, counsel to Obiano, Mr Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, informed the court that he had filed a motion challenging its jurisdiction on behalf of his client.

Counsel to the EFCC, Mr Sylvanus Tahir, SAN, however, said he had yet to file a reply because he was served the motion on Monday morning in court.

Tahir also said the issue of jurisdiction had been settled by the Supreme Court once the charge bordered on money laundering, the Federal High Court had inherent jurisdiction to try it.

The trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo advised the prosecutor to do his part by filing his response to the motion.

“It is not for you to tell the court the Supreme Court’s decision on the issue. Respond to the motion and leave the court to decide”, Ekwo said.

Obiano, a governor between March 2014 and March 2022, is said to have allegedly diverted the money from the state’s account dedicated to security funds in his last five years in office.

He allegedly directed the diversion of the funds from the state’s account between April 2017 and March 2022 and spent the money for purposes unconnected to the security affairs of the state.

The funds, according to the EFCC, were diverted through companies that had no business relationship with the Anambra government, converted to dollars and handed over to the former governor in dollars.

The case, filed by the EFCC, detailed the nine companies allegedly used to divert the funds from the state government’s security vote account.

Each of the nine counts disclosed the amount a company received and the period it received it from the state government’s account.

In count one of the charges, the EFCC alleged that between Feb. 16, and March 9, 2018, an aggregate sum of N223,371,000 was paid from the security vote account into the account of Connought International Services Limited.

The anti-graft agency alleged in count 2 that between Oct. 30, and Nov. 13 2018, a total sum of N95 million was paid from the security vote account into the bank account of S.Y. Panda Enterprises.

In Count 3, EFCC alleged that from April 11, 2017, and June 21, 2019, a total of N416,000,000 was diverted from the security vote account into the account of Zirga Zirga Trading Company Limited.