The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday arraigned the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), President Paul Usoro (SAN) before a Federal High Court in Lagos for allegedly laundering N1.4 billion.
He pleaded not guilty to all the ten counts against him and was subsequently granted N250 million bail.
Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN) appearing for Usoro had earlier expressed his opposition to his client’s arraignment over the criminal charge.
He told the Presiding Judge,Justice Muslim Hassan that a letter had been written by the NBA president to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul-Kafarati seeking the transfer of the case from the court.
“I owe it a duty to advise the court that the defendant made available to his lawyers, a copy of a letter dated 17 December 2018, addressed to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court praying for the transfer of the case to any judicial Division of either Uyo or Abuja and if in Lagos to any other judge apart from the presiding judge.
“The application is very important and was written by virtue of the legal right of the defendant.
“We understand that a copy of the letter has been served on the court and since the letter is before the Chief Judge, the proper thing is to await the decision as a mark of respect for him,” Olanipekun said.
In his response EFCC’s lawyer, Barrister Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to discountenance Olanipekun’s submissions.
He said the ruling of the court fixing for the day is for the arraignment of the defendant and has not been set aside.
Consequently he was of the view that the defence can only raise any objection after the plea of the defendant has been taken.
“It was not the contention of the defence that the ingredient of the alleged offence did not take place in Lagos.
The events that will lead to the transfer of the case to either Uyo or Abuja Division are not available,” he said.
In his ruling Justice Hassan held that arraigning the defendant will not preclude the Chief Judge from taking decision on the letter.
He thereafter ordered that the charge be read to the defendant. Thereafter Olanipekun moved his bail application.
He urged the court to admit the accused NBA boss to bail on self-recognition.
The prosecution did not raise any objection and consequently the judge while adjourning till 5 February 2019, admitted Usoro to bail in the sum of N250 million with one surety who must not be below the rank of a Director in the public service in like sum.
Justice Hassan also ordered the NBA president to submit his international passport to the court.