Ex-Anambra Gov, Obiano loses bid to stop trial in N40bn fraud charges

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By Kenneth Atavti

Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed the application by a former Anambra State Governor, Willie Maduabuchi Obiano which sought to quash the N40B money laundering charges brought against him by the federal government.

The Judge in a ruling delivered on Thursday faulted and rejected all grounds upon which the application was predicted by Obiano.

The former governor had, amongst others, prayed the Judge to dismiss the 9-count charges instituted against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC on behalf of the federal government.

He claimed that there was no connection between the proof of evidence supplied to court by EFCC and the accusations against him.

He averred that there was no testimony from any witness indicating that he issued directives for the disbursement of security votes and other funds belonging to the Anambra State government.

Obiano also claimed that he cannot be held accountable for any alleged unlawful actions by officials of the Anambra State government as there is no concept of vicarious liability in the criminal justice system.

His motion on notice was brought pursuant to section 6 (6) (a) and (b) and section 36(6) (6) b of the 1999 constitution as amended and section 1(1) & (2), 266, 271(b), 383(4) &492 (3) of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act 2015.

Among others, Obiano sought “An order of the court quashing the instant charge for it amounts to flagrant abuse of judicial process and a mockery of the criminal Justice, an order quashing the charge for non-disclosure of a prime facie case being vague and devoid of precision in respect of all the 9 count charges.”

“No prima facie case has been disclosed against the defendant in this charge. There is no link between the proof of evidence and the purported allegation made against the defendant in the charge

“No evidence exists from any witness showing that the defendant passed down a directive for the disbursement of security votes and other funds belonging to Anambra State government.

“The defendant cannot be made answerable for any purported unlawful actions of officials of Anambra State government as there is no vicarious liability in our criminal jurisprudence.

“The thinking and conclusion of the prosecution on the counts arose from speculation and suspicions

“The subject matter of the charge borders on accountability for security vote funds.”

The honourable court lacks the requisite jurisdiction to entertain issues on accountability for security vote funds

“There is an appeal filed by the Anambra state government challenging the powers of EFCC to investigate the security vote of Anambra state government.

“The preference of the entire charge is in bad faith. This honourable court has inherent judicial power to grant all the reliefs sought above.

But in the ruling, Justice Ekwo held that all the reliefs sought by Obiano are not grantable because they are premature and lacking in merit.

The Judge said that there is no way the court would know whether the former governor is linked with the alleged offences or not unless the trial is conducted in line with the provisions of the law.

The former governor is being prosecuted by EFCC on 9-count charges bordering on money laundering to the tune of N40 billion.

Meanwhile, the Judge has fixed June 24, 25, 26 and 27 for full blown trial of the charges.

In the same vein, Justice Ekwo permitted Obiano 60 days to travel abroad for medical treatment.

The Judge ordered that Obiano be made to sign undertaking to return to the country after the treatment and to deposit his travelling passport within three days of his return to Nigeria.