N700m fraud: Ize-Iyamu, others apprehensive as EFCC insists on continuing prosecution
…verdict on Metuh unsettles former guber candidate
There is tension and apprehension in the camp of a former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and four others, who were rearraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) at the Federal High Court in Benin City, over a N700 million election-related fraud.
Investigations revealed that while Ize-Iyamu is exploring different options to get the anti-graft agency to terminate the suit against him, the EFCC has insisted on proceeding with the trial expected to come up on March 2, 2019 in Benin City before Justice M G Umar.
The judgement of Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday which found Chief Olisa Metuh, guilty in a seven-count N400m suit similar to the case involving Ize-Iyamu and the chieftains of the PDP, caused apprehension in their camp, with many ruing their chances in getting off the case unscathed.
Sources said Ize-Iyamu and his supporters are in panic mode, running helter-skelter in search of possible means to secure a soft landing in the trial as he risks a long jail term as a result of his involvement in the fraud case.
“The request for a six-month adjournment was strategic. It would have allowed Ize-Iyamu all the time to strategise as he is gunning for the APC governorship ticket later this year. He is also scheming to get off the noose of the EFCC, exploring different non-legal means.
“But it is heart-warming that the judge has been firm. The EFCC is also very keen on pressing on with the case, especially with the recent conviction of people with similar cases, such as the former National Publicity Secretary of the PDP,” a close watcher of the case, who craved anonymity, said.
The defendants had on February 13, 2020, pleaded for a six-month adjournment of the case but Justice M. G. Umar declined the prayer, threatening to revoke their bail condition if they attempted to delay the commencement of the trial further.
Justice Umar, who adjourned sitting to March 2nd for hearing, maintained that he would not tolerate any form of delay in the prosecution.
Pastor Ize-Iyamu and four other top-ranking members of the PDP were re-arraigned on an eight-count charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering to the tune of N700 million, an offence contrary to section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended which is punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act.
Other defendants in the case include former Deputy Governor of Edo State, Lucky Imasuen; PDP chairman in Edo State, Chief Dan Orbih; Tony Aziegbemi and Efe Erimuoghae Anthony.
The EFCC 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 from former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The anti-graft agency also said the defendants allegedly made huge cash payments of various amounts to several people without going through a financial institution.