The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has filed a N1.4 billion fraud charge against the President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Paul Usoro (SAN), at the the Federal High Court in Lagos.
Justice Muslim Hassan fixed December 10, 2018 for the EFCC to arraign Usoro, THE NATION reports.
The anti-graft agency, in a charge marked FHC/418c/18, alleged that Usoro, from Akwa Ibom, converted and laundered the money in connivance with the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel.
The charge sheet, signed by EFCC Counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, did not list Emmanuel as a defendant.
The EFCC indicated that he is “currently constitutionally immuned against criminal prosecution”. It did, however, mention four other defendants.
They are: Nsikan Nkan, described as Commissioner for Finance, Akwa Ibom State; Mfon Udomah, described as the Accountant-General of Akwa Ibom State; Uwemedimo Nwoko, described as the Akwa Ibom State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice; and Margaret Ukpe, all of whom are said to be at large.
The commission alleged that Usoro, in connivance with the others mentioned, conspired to commit the offence “sometime in 2015 within the jurisdiction of this honourable court”.
The anti-graft agency claimed that the N1.4bn belonged to the Akwa Ibom State Government.
According to Oyedepo, the offences were contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
Though SAHARA REPORTERS wrote that Usoro was picked up yesterday and released on bail by the anti-graft body, this was disparaged by NBA Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kunle Edun who said Usoro was busy preparing to chair the NBA National Executive Committee (NBA-NEC) meeting holding tomorrow.
Reacting to a rebroadcast of the Sahara Reporters story by a legal blog, Edun said: “Pls, where did you get this information from. I have been in Abuja for the past two days. I was in Port Harcourt for SLP Conference on Monday. From Sunday till this moment I have been in contact with the NBA President.
“National officers had a meeting with him yesterday evening and left about few minutes past 12 am. I have seen Mr. President this morning. Presently he is in the office working hard preparing for NEC meeting.
“Pls, let us stop spreading false news. Away (sic) verify your facts before publishing. You could have easily reached me.
Your report is therefore false and should be retracted immediately. I hope you will also publish this refutal.”
Corroborating Edun’s account, another source who seemed abreast with Usoro’s itinerary wrote: “This is absolutely false. I was with the NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN throughout yesterday, Tuesday, 05 December 2018 and at no point whatsoever was he arrested by the EFCC.
“The President left Abuja to Lagos on Monday, 03 December 2018, with Airpeace 1:20pm and returned to Abuja on Tuesday, 04 December 2018, with Azman 8am, for a workshop organised by the Nigerian Law Reform Commission.
“After the workshop, he was in the office (NBA National Secretariat) till about 12:03am where he had a long meeting with other National Officers of the NBA.
“Please see below, pictures of the NBA President, Mr. Paul Usoro, SAN chairing a session at the Workshop on Reform of the Value Added Tax Act, organised by the Nigerian Law Reform Commission yesterday, 04 December 2018, at Reiz Continental Hotel, Abuja.”
Former NBA Welfare Secretary, Mr. Adesina Adegbite was forced to intervene when his attention was called to the concerns generated on his whatsapp platform by the report.
He wrote: “My attention was just drawn to this by a senior lawyer and past General Secretary of the NBA.
“However, by the response of the National Publicity Secretary and as the Chief Administrator of this platform, I hereby demand an immediate retraction of this post right here on this platform.
“Pls let’s get our facts right before rushing to press with false/fake news. It does us as lawyers and our noble Association no good to tarnish its image with undignified posts like this.”
However, when a learned silk classified the report as “fake news,” fiery Bar activist, Dame Carol Ajie who recently fell out with the NBA President retorted: “You know I called owner of the link (blog) they picked my call and after listening to my question ref to confirm they said to me they have confirmed.
“You know it’s not been posted to OurCountryNigeria@yahoogroups.ca but when I see the charge sheet then I can share it. Response from Carol Ajie to my comment of ‘fake news.’ ”
As at the time of this report, the NBA is yet to issue any official statement rebutting the alleged arrest.