By Osaigbovo Iguobaro, Benin
A federal High Court, Benin Division on Monday reserve ruling on the competence of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) N700 million money laundering charges preferred against the All Progressives Congress (APC) Governorship aspirant in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, the State Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Chief Dan Orbih and others to March 26, 2020.
Other defendants in the suit marked FHC/B51c/2018, are former Deputy Governor of the State, Mr Lucky Imasuen, a former member of the House of Representatives, Tony Azegbemi and Efe Anthony.
The presiding Judge, Justice Mohammed Umar, fixed the date for ruling on the competency of the charges on Mondays after listening to the various submissions of the parties in the case.
The EFCC alleged that the defendants received N700 million from former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Deziani Alison-Madueke prior to the 2015 general elections.
At resumed hearing on the case on Monday for all the parties to adopt their written addresses on the defendants’ claim that the charges against them were incompetent haven included late Chief Anenih as a principal actor in the alleged illegal transaction, the EFCC said that it never charged Chief Tony Anenih along others.
Counsels to the defendants, in the suit are Chief Ferdinand Orbih (SAN), Kingsley Obamogie, Professor George Izevbuwa, Paschal Ugbome and Ikhide Ehighelua, all posited that the case against their clients should br dropped arguing that Anenih that was conspicuously mentioned in all the charges was dead.
Obamogie also informed the court that the document presented by the EFCC was not properly signed as he said signature in the document was different from seal contrary to court practices which he said no insist on signing and stamping with a seal.
“This new practice”, according to him, has taken precedence over the previous of judicial notice.
He said the improper signing and stamping queries the credibility of the charges.
On his part, Professor Izevbuwa pointed out that the EFCC lawyer; Aso Larry Peters went out of his way to formulate four issues whereas the court had earlier brought out one issue for determination.
But Larry while adopting his written address said only five persons were charged and that the name of Chief Anenih only appeared to enable it present the facts the way it is.
He they were arraigned on an Eight-count charge of conspiracy with themselves 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.
He said the defendants were alive to face trial and that the argument was a ploy to delay taking of plea by the defendants.
According to him, “We have a right to fair hearing. The proof of evidence is before your Lordship. Chief Anenih is not charged. His name appearing does not affect them taking plea. Our duty is to present the fact the way it is”, he said.