The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Lagos Office on Tuesday re-arraigned a lawyer to the former Vice President and Presidential Candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, in the last general election, Atiku Abubakar, Uyiekpen Osagie-Giwa, and his son, Erhunse Giwa-Osagie, before Justice Chuka Austine Obiozor of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi on a three-count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of $2 million.
The duo was first arraigned before Justice Nicholas Oweibo for the same charges on August 14, 2019, where they both pleaded not guilty.
They were re-arraigned because the matter was brought before another judge.
At Tuesday’s proceedings, the lead counsel to the first and second defendants, Ahmed Raji (SAN) and Quarkers Norrison (SAN), were represented by Johnson Samuel and Olufemi Anjorin respectively.
They applied in writing to the court to adjourn the matter on grounds that the lead counsel for both defendants were not in the court.
They informed the court that a letter had been written to the administrative Judge of the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, seeking directive to consolidate the case as same charges were filed against the defendants before both Justice Obiozor and Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke.
The prosecution counsel, Kufre Uduak, who held brief for Rotimi Oyedepo, confirmed the receipt of the “consolidation letter” and the applications for adjournment.
However, Uduak told the court that the plea was to be taken by the defendants and not their counsels, adding: “Absence of lead counsel should not stall proceedings given the fact that they are represented in court.
“There was no concrete basis for the defence counsel to seek the administrative judge’s permission for consolidation of the case.
“The matter before Justice Oweibo is not in any way related to the case brought before your lordship, and does not require any form of consolidation.”
Justice Obiozor, however, overruled the prayers of the defence for adjournment and ordered that the defendants take their plea.
He however held that the court cannot predetermine the decision of the administrative judge on the consolidation of the cases.
He said: “The court has to wait to hear from the administrative judge on consolidation but however the defendants shall take their plea.”
The defendants took their plea as ordered by the court and pleaded not guilty to the charge.
One of the charges read: That you Uyiekpen Giwa-Osagie and Erhunse Giwa-Osagie sometime in February, 2019 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, considered to commit an offence to wit: making cash payment of the sum of $2, 000, 000 (Two Million United States Dollars) without going through a financial institution, which sum exceeded the amount authorised by law and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a), and 1(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended and punishable under Section 16(b) of the same Act.”
In view of their plea, the prosecution counsel, Kufre, asked for a trial date.
Counsel to the defendants urged the court to allow their clients continue to enjoy the bail terms and conditions granted by Justice Oweibo.
Justice Obiozor acceded to the request of the defendants and adjourned the case to December 5, 2019 for possible hearing as parties await the decision of the administrative judge on consolidation.