The trial of a former Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, could not proceed as scheduled on Monday as the co-defendants with the minister failed to appear before Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Although Oduah, who is presently the senator representing Anambra North in the National Assembly, was present in court, the fifth and sixth defendants in the charges were absent.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had earlier planned to re-arraign Oduah over fraud totalling over N9.4 billion while serving as minister.
Odua was scheduled to be arraigned on 25 counts of money laundering alongside Gloria Odita, Nwobu Emmanuel Nnamdi, Chukuma Irene Chinyere, Global Offshore and Marine Limited, Crystal Television Limited, Sobora International Limited and the China Civil Engineering Construction Company Limited.
According to an EFCC release on Monday, one of the counts in the charge reads, “That you, Stella Adaeze Oduah, whilst being the Minister of Aviation, Federal Republic of Nigeria and Gloria Odita whilst being the Company Secretary to Sea Petroleum & Gas Company Ltd (SPGC), and an aide to the former Minister of Aviation on or about the 12th day of February, 2014 at Abuja within the Abuja Judicial Division of this Honourable Court used your positions to transfer the sum of N1, 629,250,000 from 1-Sec Security Nig. Ltd account No. 2021756955 with First Bank Plc to Global Offshore and Marine Ltd account No. 2022977296 also domiciled with First Bank Plc, which money you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) (6) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (As Amended) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act.”
When the case was mentioned, the prosecuting counsel, Hassan Liman, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, informed the court that the commission tried every means possible but was unable to serve the fifth and sixth defendants with the court processes.
He therefore applied for an additional 14 days to serve them.
Justice Ekwo granted his prayer and adjourned till April 19, 2021, for arraignment.
SaharaReporters had on February 9 reported that Oduah would be arraigned for alleged financial impropriety totalling more than N9.4 billion fraud.
SaharaReporters had in September 2017 uncovered how Oduah bought a $1.2 million home in London, disguising it in the robes of a foreign-registered company in an effort to avoid detection.
SaharaReporters had also reported in February 2018 that the EFCC had commenced investigation of Oduah, over her involvement in the N9.4 billion contract for supply of security equipment to 22 airports across the country.