The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday re-arraigned Uyiekpen Giwa-Osagie, a lawyer to former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, and his brother, Erhunse Giwa-Osagie, at a Federal High Court in Lagos for allegedly laundering $2 million in the build-up to the 2019 general election.
The Giwa-Osagie brothers were docked before Justice Chuka Obiozor, who has just taken over the case, on a 3-count charge bordering on the alleged offence which they have however denied.
Upon a request by their lawyers, Johnson Samuel and Oladimeji Anjorin, Justice Obiozor permitted them to continue on the existing bail conditions granted them by Justice Oweibo.
Prior to the defendants’ re-arraignment, Justice Obiozor had turned down separate requests by their lawyers for an adjournment of the matter.
The two defence lawyers present in court had drawn the court’s attention to separate lawyers from their principals seeking for a further date to re-arraign the defendants.
Uyiekpen’s lawyer, Johnson Samuel, who stood in for Mr. Ahmed Raji (SAN), told the court that his principal had requested for adjournment to enable him be in court when his client’s plea would be taken.
In the same vein, Erhunse’s lawyer, Oladimeji Anjorin, who stood in for his principal, Mr. Norrison Quakers (SAN), equally drew the court’s attention to a letter and one application filed by his principal.
The letter is seeking an adjournment for the hearing of the case while the application sought to consolidate the charge against Erhunse with that of Abdullahi Babalele, Atiku’s son-in-law.
While urging the court to discountenance the letters, EFCC’s lawyer, Kufre Uduak, said there was no basis for the requests.
Uduak also urged the court to refuse Erhunse’s application seeking consolidation of the charge against him with that of Babalele on the ground that they were not the same.
The lawyer disclosed that he was not abreast of the facts in the charge against Atiku’s son-in-law, as he was not the counsel in the matter.
In a Bench ruling, Justice Obiozor held that there was nothing before him to give him an insight into what the charge against Babalele was all about. He also turned down the requests for adjournment.
“There was nothing before me to know what FHC/L/484c/19, is all about. This matter is not for counsel’s plea, plea belongs to all defendants, after plea is commencement of trial.
“Now that this charge has been assigned to this court, there is no reason not to proceed today. By NJC’s directive, the court has the right to proceed with any case before it, even with the pendency of a petition.
“The Administrative Judge may or may not concede to the consolidation. Until that decision is taken, I see no reason not to proceed with the case, particularly, as the business of today is for plea.
“Finally, the application is refused and defendants are called upon to take their plea”, the judge ruled.
In ruling, the hearing in the matter was adjourned to 5th December, 2019, for commencement of defendants’ trial.
The defendant is being prosecuted by the EFCC for allegedly laundering $140,000 in the build-up to the last general elections.
According to the EFCC, Babalele persuaded one Bashir Mohammed, a Bureau De Change (BDC) operator, to make a cash payment of the sum of $140,000 without going through any financial institution, an offence contrary to Section 18(c) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 16(2)(b) of the same Act.
The anti-graft agency charged Babalele with the offence on August 14, 2019, before Justice Nicholas Oweibo.