N700m Fraud: Court docks Ize-Iyamu, four others, fix March 26 for ruling
…‘We never charged Anenih,’ says EFCC counsel
Justice M.G. Umar of the Federal High Court in Benin City has fixed March 26, 2020, for the ruling on applications filed by former Peoples Democratic party (PDP) governorship candidate in Edo state, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and four others challenging the competency of the charges raised against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The four other defendants in the suit include the state PDP Chairman, Chief Dan Orbih; former Deputy Governor, Mr. Lucky Imasuen; former member of the Federal House of Representatives, Tony Azegbemi and Efe Anthony.
Recall that the anti-graft agency in Suit No. FHC/BE21C/ 2016 had filed an eight count charge against the accused persons bordering on alleged illegal receipt of public funds to the tune of N700 million for the purpose of the 2015 general election, contrary to the provisions of the EFCC Act and the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
The EFCC further accused the defendants of conspiring among themselves to commit the offence in March, 2015, alleging that they took possession and control of the funds without any contract award.
On resumption of hearing on Monday, March 2, 2020, counsels to the five defendants, Ferdinand Orbih SAN, Kingsley Obamogie Esq, Pascal Ugbome Esq, Prof. O.G Izevbuwa Esq and Ikhide Ehighalua Esq, after adopting their written addresses urged the court to strike out the charges against the defendants on the grounds that they were incompetent.
They argued further that the prosecutor’s reply to their addresses was in gross violation of the Legal Practitioners Act, Rule 10 (1), (2) (3) of the Rules for Professional conduct of legal practitioners, and averred that the court lacks jurisdiction to entertain the case because the petitioner’s reply was filed out of time.
Ferdinand Orbih contended that EFCC should have amended their charges against the defendants by removing Late Chief Tony Anenih’s name from the charges rather than saying the late politician was irrelevant to the substance of the case.
But counsel to the petitioner, Larry Aso Esq, while adopting his written address, urged the court to uphold his argument, maintaining that Chief Anenih was never charged by the EFCC.
He urged the court to dismiss the defendants’ applications, saying that they cannot raise objection to the charges now as they have not taken their pleas, hence he described the defendants’ applications as grossly incompetent.
Aso averred that the court should not have listened to the argument of the defendants as the court can only have jurisdiction over the defendants after they have taken their pleas.
He argued that contrary to the submissions of the defendants, the petitioner’s reply to the applications of the defendants was signed by Austin Ozigbo Esq., whose stamp and seal appeared on the reply.