Justice Nicholas Oweibo of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on March 6, 2020, dismissed an application filed by Prof Maurice Iwu, a former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, seeking the transfer of his N1.23bn fraud trial from Lagos to Abuja for lacking in merit.
Iwu, between December 2014 and March 27, 2015, allegedly aided the concealment of the money in the account of Bioresources Institute of Nigeria Limited with number 1018603119 domiciled in the United Bank for Africa.
One of the counts reads, “That you, Prof Maurice Maduakolam Iwu, between December 2014 and March 27, 2015, in Nigeria within the jurisdiction of this honourable court aided the concealment of the total sum of N1,203,00,000.00 ( One billion, two hundred and three million naira) in Bioresources Institute of Nigeria Limited’s Account No. 1018603119 domiciled in United Bank for Africa Plc, which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of proceeds of unlawful act to wit: fraud and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Sections 18(a), 15(2) (a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 15 ( 3) of the same Act.”
The defendant pleaded “not guilty” to the charge preferred against him.
At the last adjourned sitting on February 27, 2020, Iwu’s lawyer, Ahmed Raji (SAN), had told the court that his client, whom he claimed to be in his 70s, was too old to be coming from Abuja to the Federal High Court in Lagos to stand trial.
Raji had further submitted that the transactions leading to the charges against his client took place in Abuja.
“It will amount to great agony for him to continue with this trial in Lagos,” he had argued.
However, counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, had opposed the prayer of the defence.
Delivering ruling, Justice Oweibo said the application lacked merit.
The judge further held that the list of witnesses submitted by the commission showed that many of them were in Lagos, with some retired.
“Justice will be better served for the trial to proceed in Lagos,” the judge held.
The matter has been adjourned until April 28, 2020 for commencement of trial.