The Federal High Court in Benin on Monday reserved ruling on the competence of the alleged N700m fraud charges brought against a governorship aspirant of the All Progressives Congress, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Others docked with Ize-Iyamu are the Edo State Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Mr Dan Orbih, a former deputy governor of Edo State, Mr Lucky Imasuen, and a former member of the House of Representatives, Tony Azegbemi and Efe Anthony.
The anti-graft agency had alleged that Ize-Iyamu and other defendants received N700m from a former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Deziani Alison-Madueke, prior to the 2015 general elections.
EFCC said they were arraigned on eight counts of conspiracy with themselves to commit money laundering to the tune of N700m, an offence contrary to section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended which is punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act.
At the court on Monday, all the parties adopted the written addresses on the defendants’ claim that the charges against them were incompetent having included the late Chief Tony Anenih as a principal actor in the alleged illegal transaction.
But the EFCC said that it never charged Anenih along others.
Presiding Judge, Justice Mohammed Umar, fixed March 26, 2020 for ruling on the competency of the charges.
Counsel for the defendants, in the suit No FHC/B51c/2018: Chief Ferdinand Orbih (SAN), Kingsley Obamogie, Prof. George Izevbuwa, Paschal Ugbome and Ikhide Ehighelua, all posited that the case against their clients should be dropped.
They argued that Anenih who was conspicuously mentioned in all the charges was dead.
Obamogie also told the court that the document presented by the EFCC was not properly signed, noting that the signature in the document was different from seal contrary to court practices.
He said the improper signing and stamping queries the credibility of the charges.
On his part, Izevbuwa pointed out that the EFCC lawyer, Aso Peters, went out of his way to formulate four issues whereas the court had earlier brought out one issue for determination.
But Larry, while adopting his written address, said only five persons were charged and that Anenih’s name only appeared to enable it to present the fact the way it was.
He said the defendants were alive to face trial and that the argument was a ploy to delay taking of plea by the defendants.
“We have a right to fair hearing. The proof of evidence is before your Lordship. Chief Anenih is not charged. His name appearing does not affect them taking plea. Our duty is to present the fact the way it is,” he said.