The Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has on several occasions used his powers to frustrate the trial of former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, over a multi-billion naira scandal.
SaharaReporters learnt that since Oduah dumped the Peoples Democratic Party for the APC, Malami had been making efforts to put a stop to the trial.
Oduah, who the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) indicted in 2014, alongside the Nigerian subsidiary of Chinese construction company, CCECC, in alleged fraudulent cash transactions of about N5 billion, has refused to appear in court with the backing of the AGF.
On December 17, 2020, EFCC filed 25 counts against Oduah (1st defendant), CCECC Nigeria Limited (9th defendant) and seven others comprising persons and firms.
One of the other defendants in the case, Gloria Odita (2nd defendant) is said to be an aide to Oduah when she was Minister of Aviation. She is said to be the company secretary for Sea Petroleum & Gas Company (SPGC) Limited, a firm founded by the former minister.
The rest of the defendants are an employee of SPCG and aide to Oduah, Nwobu Nnamdi (3rd defendant), Chukwuma Chinyere (4th defendant), Global Offshore and Marine Ltd (5th defendant), Tip Top Global Resources Limited (6th defendant), Crystal Television Limited (7th defendant), and Sobora International Limited (8th defendant).
The EFCC, in the 25 counts, accused them of conspiracy to commit money laundering, transferring; taking control and taking possession of proceeds of fraud, aiding and abetting money laundering and opening anonymous bank accounts.
Specifically, the prosecution alleged in two of the 25 counts that Oduah and Odita opened anonymous “private banking nominee” dollar and naira accounts with First Bank, thereby committing an offence contrary to section 11(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (as amended) and punishable under section 11(4) (a) of the same Act.
Oduah was to be arraigned on February 9, 2021, but she did not appear in court on the excuse that she had not been served the papers; the court then adjourned to February 22 for her arraignment but the defendant had refused to appear in court.
The court also fixed April 19 for the arraignment but the strike embarked upon by members of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria delayed the court hearing.
On July 12, Oduah refused to appear in court and the judge threatened to issue a warrant of arrest against her and other defendants if they failed to appear in court by the next adjourned date.
The lawyer called the court attention to the fact that Oduah, who is the 1st defendant, and another defendant listed as 4th in the trial were not in court.
“I will fix another date for arraignment and if they like, let them not come,” Justice Inyang Ekwo said at the time.
Also on October 20, Oduah, who currently represents Anambra North Senatorial District at the National Assembly, was scheduled for arraignment before Justice Ekwo, but the proceeding could not take place due to a public holiday.
The court then fixed the trial for November 22 (today) and 23. However, at the trial on Monday, the scheduled arraignment was stalled as a result of a petition sent to Malami.
Oduah and her co-accused persons could not take a plea because of an application by one of the defence lawyers, Ogwu Onoja (SAN), asking the court not to go on with the plea taking.
Onoja informed the court that there was a petition dated January 29, to the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, in respect of the charge.
According to Onoja, the letter of complaint claimed that Oduah and the other defendants are being persecuted.
Onoja said having submitted the petition to the AGF, “he requested for the file but up till now, the EFCC (Economic and Financial Cimes Commission) vehemently refused to remit the file to the AGF”.
"The question is: Can the AGF request for a file to review a criminal charge, and an agency will say no," Onoja queried.
“My lord, the plea cannot be taken on account of the issue at hand," Onoja added.
Therefore, the court ordered parties to file written addresses on the issue before adjourning to February 10.
SaharaReporters learnt that Oduah's interest is being protected after she dumped the PDP for APC.
On August 27, 2021, Oduah joined the APC, claiming she joined the party to change the political narrative in the South-East.
Oduah, like some other politicians who joined the ruling party, has been under investigation by the EFCC for her alleged involvement in a scandal.
The allegations included a dubious contract for the supply of security equipment to 22 airports across the country.
SaharaReporters had reported that there were concerted efforts by a few persons in key positions to compromise and frustrate Oduah’s prosecution.
Speaking to SaharaReporters in October, a source at the Presidency had said there were concerted and subtle efforts by Senate President Ahmad Lawan and Deputy Senate President Ovie Omo-Agege to “frustrate, sabotage and compromise the EFCC, its witnesses and prosecution team and Justice Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja.”
He had added, “There are concerted and subtle efforts by Deputy Senate President and Senate President to sabotage President Muhammadu Buhari’s anti-corruption stance by mounting undue pressure on the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, the Chairman of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and also Justice Ekwo of Federal High Court Abuja for them to frustrate, compromise and sabotage the prosecution and trial of Sen Stella Oduah, former Minister of Aviation.
“This well-orchestrated plan has been perfected by the above-mentioned highly placed Nigerians."
Since the coming of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in 2015, a number of Nigerian politicians and political leaders with corruption cases hanging on their necks have found a haven in the ruling party, All Progressives Congress.
The defection of such political leaders to the APC has automatically stalled prosecution of their corruption cases – a pattern that negates the self-acclaimed anti-corruption campaign of the present regime.
During the 2019 elections, Adams Oshiomhole, a former National Chairman of the APC had announced that those who joined the ruling party would have their "sins" forgiven.
He encouraged more politicians in opposition parties to toe the path of some members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who had defected to the APC at that time.
“I am told that there are a lot of very senior people from PDP who have decided to join forces with President Buhari to take the broom to sweep away PDP and to continue to ensure that APC continues to preside all over Nigeria.
"We have quite a number of other leaders who have come. We have quite a number of other leaders who have come… in fact, once you have joined APC, all your sins are forgiven,” he had said.