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Friday, July 21, 2023

N7.9bn Fraud: Finally, EFCC Arraigns Stella Oduah, Eight Others


The  Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, today, July 21, 2023,  arraigned Stella Adaeze Oduah, a former minister of Aviation before  Justice I.E. Ekwo of the Federal High Court Maitama, Abuja on a 25-count  charge bordering on money laundering. She was docked alongside three others: Gloria Odita, Nwobu Emmanuel Nnamdi and Irene Chukwuma and five companies -  Global Offshore And Marine Limited, Tiptop Global Resources  Limited, Crystal Television Limited, Sobora International Limited, and  China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation.

Count one of the charge reads, “that you, Stella Adaeze Oduah whilst being the Minister of Aviation, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Gloria Odita,  whilst being the Company Secretary to Sea Petroleum & Gas Company  Ltd (SPGC) and an aide to the former Minister of Aviation, Nwobu  Emmanuel Nnamdi, whilst being an employee of Sea Petroleum & Gas  Company Ltd (SPGC) and an aide to the former Minister of Aviation,  Chukwuma Irene Chinyere, Global Offshore And Marine Limited, Tiptop  Global Resources Limited, Crystal Television Limited, Sobora  International Limited between January 2014 and April 2014 at Abuja within the judicial division of this Honourable Court did conspire among yourselves to commit an offence to wit: ‘Money Laundering’ and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering  (Prohibition) Act 2011 (As Amended) and punishable under Section 15(3)  and (4) of the same Act”.

Count  5  reads, “that you, Stella Adaeze Oduah whilst being the Minister of  Aviation, the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Global Offshore and Marine  Ltd, a Limited Liability Company registered under the Laws of the  Federal Republic of Nigeria on or about 12th February 2014  at Abuja within the Judicial Division of this Honourable Court took control of the sum of N1,629,250,000.00 (One Billion, Six Hundred and Twenty-Nine Million, Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira) only and paid into the account of Global Offshore and Marine Ltd account No.  2022977296 domiciled with First Bank Plc from I-Sec Security Nig. Ltd accounts No. 2021756955 with First Bank Plc, which money you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act and  you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) of the Money  Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (As Amended) and punishable under  Section 15(3) and (4) of the same Act’.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them.

Justice  Ekwo granted bail to the defendants on the terms of the administrative bail earlier offered them by the EFCC, and adjourned till October 17,  2023, for the commencement of trial.

It will be recalled that the Commission had filed the charge against Oduah and others on December 17, 2020, but attempts to arraign them witnessed many twists and turns. Several times the defendants were not available  in court forcing adjournments; and when they were available, it was  either counsel was pushing for adjournment on the grounds of settlement  negotiations, or the Judge had issues that would not allow for  arraignment. The ding-dung continued for almost three years

At today’s session, Justice Ekwo requested the report of an investigation that he had ordered the EFCC to carry out with respect to an anonymous threat message he received via SMS in relation to the case. Hassan Liman, SAN, lead prosecutor of the EFCC told the court that the Commission was doing its best to apprehend the anonymous messenger.  However, the inability of the Commission to produce the report,  Justice Ekwo said, has compelled him to order the Commission to, within two weeks, hand over the file on its investigation of Stella Adaeze Oduah and eight others to the Attorney General of the Federation to continue with the prosecution.

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