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NBA President, Usoro, Re-Arraigned as Court Orders Arrest of Akwa Ibom Commissioners, Accountant, Others

The President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro (SAN) has been re-arraigned before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court, Lagos on 10 counts of N1.4bn fraud.

Usoro was docked by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Friday but pleaded not guilty to the charge and the subsequently admitted him to bail in the sum of N250m, with one surety in like sum.

Apart from granting the NBA president bail, the court also ordered for the arrest of the Commissioner for Finance in Akwa Ibom State, Nsikan Nkan, as well as the state’s Accountant General, Mfon Udomah.

The court also ordered the arrest of the state’s Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Uwemedimo Nwoko and the cashier at the Akwa Ibom State Government House, Margaret Ukpe.

Justice Aikawa issued a bench warrant against the four Akwa Ibom State officials following an application by EFCC.

The names of the four officials had appeared in the N1.4bn fraud charges filed by the anti-graft agency against Usoro.

Justice Aikawa said the four state officials must be produced before him on March 18 by security agents.
The arrest order against the officials came after Usoro had been re-arraigned.

Justice Aikawa is the third judge to handle the case after both Justices Muslim Hassan and Chuka Obiozor, of the same court, had withdrawn.

Usoro had objected to being tried before Justice Hassan and urged the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdul-Kafarati, to assign the case to another judge.

Based on this request, the Chief Judge withdrew the case file from Justice Hassan and re-assigned it to Justice Obiozor; but Justice Obiozor declined presiding over the case, citing “personal reasons.”

In the charges, the EFCC accused the NBA President of converting N1.4bn belonging to Akwa Ibom State Government to his own.

Counsel for the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, said Usoro’s action was contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.     

He added that the SAN was liable to be punished under Section 15(3) of the same Act.

After taking his plea on Friday, Justice Aikawa granted Usoro a N250m bail with one surety in like sum.

The judge, however, released the NBA President to Mr. O. Offiong (SAN), pending the fulfillment of the bail conditions.

The matter was adjourned till March 18 for trial.

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