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Court Adjourns Arraignment of NBA President, Usoro

The much touted arraignment of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr Paul Usoro SAN before a Federal High Court, Lagos did not take place on Monday as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) accused Mr Usoro of evading service of the money laundering charges filed against him.
Although all parties were present before the trial judge, Justice Muslim Hassan, the arraignment did not go on because of the accusation by EFCC. The prosecution lawyer, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo told the court that all efforts to effect service of the charge on Mr Usoro proved abortive as he (Usoro) evaded service.
However, Chief Wole Olanipekun SAN, who led 13 other senior advocates in the defence of Usoro argued that he (Usoro) had appeared on his own before the court and since he is around, the said service should be effected on him personally in the court room.
But the EFCC lawyer insisted that he was not in the position to effect the said service in court since amongst other reasons, the charge is with the Commission’s Investigative Officer in Abuja.
Justice Hassan thereafter adjourned until December 18, 2018 for arraignment. The judge equally ordered the commission to effect service of the charge on Usoro.
It would be recalled that the commission had planned to arraign Usoro over allegation of fraud to the tune of N1.4bn owned by the Akwa Ibom State government.
Also expected to be arraigned alongside Usoro on a ten count charge that has to do with the alleged offence is the state’s Commissioner for Finance, Nsikan Nkan, the Accountant General of the state, Mfon Udomah, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice of the state, Uwemedimo Nwoko, and one Margaret Ukpe, all of whom were said to be at large.
In the charge designated FHC/418c/18, and filed last Wednesday, Usoro was accused of diverting the said sum into personal use.
Specifically, the anti-graft agency insisted that Usoro converted and laundered the money in connivance with the state governor, Udom Emmanuel.
However, governor Emmanuel was not listed as a defendant in the charge on the reason that he is “currently constitutionally immuned against criminal prosecution.”
According to the Commission, the NBA boss whilst conniving with the other mentioned defendants conspired among themselves to commit the alleged offence sometime in 2015 “within the jurisdiction of this honourable court”.
Oyedepo who signed the charge argued that the alleged offence committed by the NBA President is contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011. Oyedepo further suggested that Usoro is liable to be punished under Section 15(3) of the same Act.

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