A Federal High Court on Monday granted leave to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to arraign the wife of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Cecilia Osipitan, for alleged N6 billion money laundering.
Justice Inyang Ekwo fixed March 26 after counsel to the EFCC, Benjamin Manji, admitted serving the defence counsel with the charge on Sunday, March 21.
Mrs Osipitan’s counsel, Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, had objected to the commencement of the matter when the prosecution lawyer told the court that the matter was for the defendant to take her plea.
“With regards to arraignment, we have some challenges. The defendant only instructed me very late last night and we have not even seen the charge, except if my lord will accept I make an oral application for bail,” Oyetibo said.
“When did you serve the charge on the defendants,” Justice Ekwo asked Manji.
The EFCC lawyer admitted that though the defendant was served the previous day, it was because the defendant had refused to honour the commission’s invitation until she was arrested.
“The 1st defendant was arrested this weekend. We were here on the 22nd of last month.
“She has refused to show up. It took the commission two days to get her arrested. She is the managing director of the 2nd defendant,” he explained.
The News Agency of Nigeria observes that while the EFCC is the complainant, Osipitan and PJO Ventures Limited are 1st and 2nd defendants respectively in the nine-count money laundering charge.
Corroborating Oyetibo’s statement, counsel for the 2nd defendant, Bode Olanipekun, SAN, also opposed the commencement of the case.
“My lord, I was with the prosecution at the Lagos office throughout Saturday on representation.
“I produced the 1st defendant. We went there voluntarily and I gave a written undertaking.
“I don’t do this as counsel but because I trust the integrity of the 1st defendant, Mrs Osipitan, I did that.
“We flew in yesterday and went to Abuja EFCC office and I left there at about 12am, this morning,” he said.
Olanipekun, however, said it was disheartening that her client was immediately detained by the agency’s operatives.
He also said that he was yet to see the charge.
The judge asked Manji that after a charge was served, how long did the defendant entitled to before she could be arraigned.
“Seven days, my lord,” he replied.
“So, the defendant is entitled to seven days before arrangement,” Ekwo said.
The judge, who adjourned the matter until March 26 for arraignment, held that the defence counsel had to be given ample opportunity to prepare for the arraignment.
Justice Ekwo also made a consequential order releasing Mrs Osipitan to her counsel.
He ordered the counsel to write an undertaking to produce her on the adjourned date.