•••Court fixes date for trial
•••As Witness Reveals How Usoro Was Paid N300m
Justice Rilwanu Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Wednesday, June 3, 2019, struck out an application filed by Udom Emmanuel, Governor of Akwa Ibom State for “Stay of Proceedings” in an alleged N1.48bn fraud case involving the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Paul Usoro, SAN.
Justice Aikawa dismissed the application, following an objection raised by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, that the “court lacks power to stay proceedings upon an application filed and served by an appellant applicant, who is not a defendant in the suit.”
Emmanuel had filed an application seeking to quash the entire charge against Usoro.
However, the application was also dismissed by the court.
At today’s proceedings, the defence also filed an application for adjournment of the case.
However, Justice Aikawa, in his ruling, dismissed the application.
The Judge held that “the applicant, who filed for stay of proceedings, is not a party to this criminal charge.
“The law is specifically against stay of proceedings in a criminal trial and can only be considered until judgment is delivered or when the charge is withdrawn.
“The application for adjournment is also a way to stay proceedings.”
Consequently, Justice Aikawa ordered the commencement of trial, if the prosecution was ready.
Counsel to Usoro informed the court that the prosecution had not served the defence with the “proof of evidence”, prosecution witnesses’ statements and letters from both Access Bank Plc, Diamond Bank Plc and Zenith Bank Plc, as ordered by the court.
He further told the court that the prosecution had also rejected the subpoena and letter of “Notice of Produce” when taken to the offices of the EFCC both in Lagos and Abuja by the court registrar.
In his response, Oyedepo told the court that he was not aware of the rejection of any subpoena and letter, adding that the subpoena was not directed to the EFCC but the Director of Operations in the Lagos EFCC office.
Oyedepo also told the court that “the EFCC Lagos office does not have a Director of Operations.”
He, however, assured the court that the issue of subpoena and the letter allegedly rejected by the EFCC would be investigated, while adding that he would revert back to the court.
The court ordered the prosecution to serve the documents needed by the defence.
Following the order of the court to proceed with the trial, prosecution counsel, Oyedepo called the first prosecution witness, Udom Idongesit, a Relationship Manager with Zenith Bank Plc, Akwa Ibom State, revealed how the sum of N700 million was moved from the impress account of Akwa Ibom State with Zenith Bank on the instruction of the Governor.
The witness, who was led in evidence by the prosecution counsel, Oyedepo, further told the court she was privy to a conversation in the State House between the Governor and the Accountant-General of Akwa Ibom State, Mfon Jacobson Udomah, on the payment of N300 million to the Usoro out of the N700million that was withdrawn in cash from the State account.
Idongesit also told the court that she had to get the contact of the defendant through the Governor in order to make the defendant a customer of the bank and that payment be made to the defendant’s Zenith Bank account.
She stated that an account was opened for the defendant with Zenith Bank and that the sum of N300 million was paid into the account.
In her further testimony, the witness told the court that she called the defendant on the phone and informed him that an instruction had been given by the Governor to pay him the sum of N300 million, adding that the defendant told her that two of his colleagues would call her and deal with her regarding the payment of the money.
According to her, the account was opened for the defendant and the account opening package and other documents were sent to the defendant after the payment was made.
The witness also told the court that the remaining N400million was given to Margret Thompson Ukpe, who is an employee of Akwa Ibom State government.
She named Usoro and one Usoro Ufom Ekok as the signatories to the account.
The court admitted in evidence, bank statements and account opening package tendered by the prosecution counsel.
When Oyedepo asked for the phone numbers in which the credit alerts were sent from the witness, the defence objected on the grounds that the document was before the court and that ‘it speaks for itself.”
In his response, Oyedepo told the court that it was unconstitutional for a counsel to dump documents on the court without proper explanation before the court.
Justice Aikawa, after listening to both parties, adjourned the case to October 21 and 31, 2019 for ruling and continuation of trial.