Paul Usoro, President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), was arrested on Tuesday by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)in relation to multiple corruption allegations, SaharaReporters has been told.
However, he was released on bail and has been charged to court.
Usoro's arrest came two days before he presides over his first National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting as President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) on Thursday.
He emerged NBA President in August following an election that one of his opponents said was characterised by “corruption, massive vote buying, vote capture, rigging and a skewed process”.
Earllier in November, the EFCC had narrated Usoro’s alleged role in how the sum of N1.7 billion was withdrawn from the Akwa Ibom State government’s accounts and diverted for personal use.
In a statement of defence filed before the Federal High Court in Uyo and seen by SaharaRepoters, the commission indicted Emmanuel Udom, Akwa Ibom State Governor; the Accountant General of the state, Uwem Sunday Andrew-Essien; Commissioner of Finance, Nsikan Linus Nkan; one Margeret Thompson Ukpe and a company, Paul Usoro & Co.
In August, the anti-graft agency had placed a freeze order on all bank accounts controlled by the Akwa Ibom State government, leading to the filing of a N50 billion law suit against the commission by the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State.
However, in its response, EFCC said it acted within the purview of its enactment act that empowers it to place a stop order on any account suspected to be involved in any crime. It said on March 10, 2016, the sum of N700 million was withdrawn in cash from the state’s Accountant General’s imprest account.
EFCC stated further: “That out of the said N700,000,000.00, the sum of N300,000,000.00 was deposited in cash to the Zenith account No. 1014604466 belonging to Paul Usoro & Co on the 14th of March, 2016 without any contractual relationship between Akwa Ibom State and the said Paul Usoro & Co.
“That the 1st defendant (EFCC) invited Paul Usoro (SAN) who volunteered extra judicial statement confessing that the said N300,000,000.00 was his professional fees for handling Mr. Udom Emmanuel’s personal matter before the election tribunal. That the remaining N400,000,000.00 was also diverted to private use.
“That in similar vein, the total sum of N1,100,000,000.00 was also removed from the Akwa Ibom State Ministry of Justice account No. 1011191486 domiciled in Zenith Bank Plc and lodged in the Paul Usoro & Co’s account number 0690123425 domiciled with Access Bank Plc without reasonable justification."
The anti-graft agency claimed that out of the N1.1 billion, Uwemedimo Thomas Nwoko received a kickback of N65million from Paul Usoro.
The Akwa Ibom case is not the only bribery allegation against Usoro. In October, the National Judicial Council (NJC) asked President Muhammadu Buhari to dismiss two judges after they were investigated and found to be guilty of corruption allegations brought against them by the EFCC.
The affected judges were Rita Ofili-Ajumogobia of the Federal High Court and James Agbadu-Fishim of the National Industrial Court of Nigeria, who had been in the news for at least two years for allegedly receiving bribe from Usoro.
NBA’s NEC meeting holds on Thursday (arrival on Wednesday and departure on Friday) at the NBA Auditorium, NBA House, Plot 1101 Muhamadu Buhari Way, Cadastral Zone A00 Central Area, Abuja.
Attendance is restricted to only statutory NEC members, who are the national officers, past presidents, past general secretaries, branch chairmen, branch secretaries, branch NEC representatives, and chairmen and secretaries of sections.