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N3bn Nerc Fraud: Owan, 6 Others Set For Trial

Source: ukpakareports.com

The stage is now set for the commencement of the trial of suspended Chairman of the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission, NERC, Dr Ransome Owan and six others as their counsel, Dr Tunji Abayomi Friday January 29 dropped their oppostion to the fresh charges filed against them.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had filed 85 count amended charges against Owan and other suspects including Mallam Abdurahman Ado, Professor Onwuamaeze Iloeje, Dr Abdurazaq Alimi, Engr Mohammed Bunu, Engr Abimbola Odubiyi and Dr. Grace Eyoma over an alleged N3 billion fraud.

Rather than take their plea, Abayomi, who is the defence counsel to the 6th and 7th accused persons, filed an application on January 27, 2010, before Justice Salisu Garba of the FCT High Court, Abuja to oppose the fresh charges stating that the EFCC was filing too many charges against the suspects.

But when the case came up Friday for hearing on the objection filed by Abayomi, the defence counsel made a u-turn and sought to withdraw the application “for the interest of liberty”.

Prosecution counsel, Godwin Obla thereafter urged the trial judge to substitute the charges pending against the accused persons with the amended charges dated 21 January, 2010. The application, he said is brought under Section 208(1) of the Criminal Code.

Justice Garba, while striking out Abayomi's application also granted Obla's request.

Barrister Paul O, Counsel to Mallam Abdul-Rahman Ado, however pleaded with the court to release his client's travelling documents to enable him travel abroad for medical treatment.

Barrister Obla, while replying to Paul's request, prayed the court to give him till Monday, February 1, 2010, to enable him file a written affidavit in respect of the release or otherwise of the travelling documents.

Barrister Mike Ugwuanyi, counsel to Dr. Abdulrazaq Alimi, then urged the prosecution to supply proper proof of evidence as to enable him advise his clients properly. But Dr. Abayomi interjected when he said that the additional proof of evidence tendered remained an exhibit as it has not been filed independently. Barrister Obla then obliged Abayomi saying he would file the application for additional proof of evidence tendered as exhibit.

The EFCC had on 21 January, 2010, filed an amended 85 count charges against Dr. Owan and six others.

In his ruling, Justice Garba adjourned the case to 23rd February for taking of plea by the accused while he will rule on the application for the release of Mallam Ado's travel documents on 16th February .

Dr. Owan and the six commissioners were first arraigned by the EFCC on April 22, 2009 before the FCT High Court, Abuja on a 196 count charge. The accused persons were alleged to have committed offences contrary to sections 97, 315,122, 309, 123, 289 of the Criminal Procedure Code, all bordering on criminal conspiracy, dishonest conversion of public funds, criminal appropriation, theft and disobedience to law. They were said to have allegedly converted billions of naira belonging to NERC for personal use.

The accused persons were later granted bail in the sum of N100 million each, two sureties for each of the accused persons in like sum; the two sureties must be prominent Nigerians with property in Maitama, Garki, Asokoro or Wuse all in Abuja . The accused persons were also barred from travelling and are to report to EFCC head office first and last Monday of every month.

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