The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday afternoon filed a ten count charge of fraud against the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Paul Usoro (SAN) before a Federal High Court, Lagos. Usoro is alleged to be involved in a fraud of N1.4 billion that belongs to the Akwa Ibom State government.
Earlier on Wednesday, Justice Fatun Odohi Riman of Federal High Court, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State struck out a N50 billion suit filed by Akwa Ibom state government against EFCC despite a notice of discontinuance filed by the state’s lawyer, Assam E. Assam SAN in the suit challenging the ani-graft agency for freezing the bank account of the state.
In its statement of defence, EFCC through its lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo had stated how the treasury of the state was looted by the governor, Emmanuel Udom, and his cohorts, and how the proceeds of the stealing diverted to the accounts of Mr Usoro’s firm, Paul Usoro and Co. Oyedepo further informed the court how Usoro paid the sum of N65 million into the private acount of the state’s Attorney General, Mr Uwemedimo Nwoko.
Shortly after, EFCC filed the ten count charge of fraud against the NBA President, accusing him of diversion of N1.4 billion belonging to Akwa Ibom State government into personal use.
Charged along Usoro is the state governor, Udom(currently constitutionally immuned from prosecution), the Attorney General, Mr Nwoko, Commissioner for Finance, Mr Nsikan Linus Nkan, Accountant General of the State, Mfon Jacobson Udomah, and one Margaret Thompson Ukpe. EFCC claims they are all still at large, except Usoro.
The charge sheet, marked FHC/418c/18, was filed before Justice Muslim Hassan.The judge has fixed December 10, 2018 for the arraignment of the NBA President.
The EFCC claimed that Usoro in connivance with the others mentioned conspired among themselves to commit the offence sometime in 2015 “within the jurisdiction of this honourable court”.
Counsel for the EFCC, Oyedepo, who signed the charge sheet, said in the charge sheet the offence allegedly committed by the NBA President was contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.He added that the SAN is liable to be punished under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
This is the second time Mr Usoro will be facing accusation from EFCC. He was indicted by the agency in the involving the sacked National Industrial Court judge, Justice James Agbadu-Fishim. Usoro though not prosecuted, was accused of giving bribe to the judge in other to influence the judgement of the court in a case in which his chambers was involved. Usoro however denied, claiming that the money he gave the judge was a gift. Justice Agbadu-Fishim was subsequently recommended for dismissal by the National Judicial Council (NJC).