The N7.9 billion corruption charge levelled against ex-Aviation minister, Senator Stella Oduah was stalled on Monday at a Federal High Court in Abuja.
The arraignment before Justice Inyang Ekwo was aborted by a petition filed against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission by two co-defendants to Oduah.
The two co-defendants are Crystal Television Limited and Sobora International Limited which were listed as 7th and 8th defendants.
The PUNCH reported that shortly after Senator Oduah, representing Anambra North in the National Assembly and three others were called into the dock to take their plea, counsel to 7th and 8th defendants, Ogwu James Onoja (SAN), objected to the arraignment on the ground that his clients were being persecuted by EFCC.
According to him, the aggrieved defendants had petitioned the Attorney-General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami (SAN), seeking a review of the charges against them.
Ogwu informed Justice Ekwo that the AGF, upon receipt of the petition, wrote the chairman of EFCC to remit the case file to his office for a review, adding that in flagrant disregard to the AGF’s letter, the EFCC had bluntly refused to remit the case file to the AGF.
He tendered a certified true copy of the AGF’s letter as received by the EFCC chairman and urged the Court not to go ahead in the arraignment until the petition has been resolved in the interest of justice.
However, lawyer to EFCC, Ofem Uket denied knowing anything about the AGF letter, adding that as a staff of EFCC, he was just sighting the letter for the first time in Court.
The counsel urged the court to disregard the petition by the defendants and proceed to arraign them.
He said that the AGF would have come to the Court if he had any opposition to the arraignment.
However, Justice Ekwo said that since the petition was raised as both a statutory and constitutional matter by the defendants, he would not proceed.
The Judge, therefore, ordered counsel in the matter to file written addresses for and against the issue raised in the open Court and exchange same on the competence of the charges before the adjourned date.
Justice Ekwo, therefore, fixed February 10, 2022, for adoption of the written addresses and also ordered that Oduah and other defendants in the charges should continue to enjoy the administrative bail earlier granted them.
Oduah’s planned arraignment for November 22 (Monday) in the corruption charges had, before now, been stalled five times due to her persistent absence in court and public holiday.
Justice Ekwo had on July 12 threatened to issue warrant for her arrest should she fail to make herself available for arraignment on the then adjourned date of October 19 which later fell on Eid-el Maulud holiday.
The arrest threat was issued following her non-appearance to honour court proceedings of July 12 without any explanation from her side.
The EFCC is alleging that Oduah misappropriated the N7.9 billion public funds while serving as Aviation Minister under former President Goodluck Jonathan’s regime.
Other defendants were Gloria Odita, Nwosu Emmanuel Nnamdi, Chukwuma Irene Chinyere, Global Offshore and Marine Limited, Tip Top Global Resources Limited, Crystal Television Limited and Sobora International Limited among others.
They were charged with conspiracy and money laundering as well as maintaining anonymous bank accounts.