By Bankole Adewale
The trial of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro, over N1.4 billion fraud could not proceed on Tuesday before Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court Lagos, following the transfer of the case to a new judge, Prof. Chuka Obiozor.
Usoro is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 10-count charge bordering on fraud.
He was arraigned before the court on December 18, 2018, before Justice Hassan, and his plea was taken.
Justice Hassan had subsequently admitted him to bail in the sum of N250 million with one surety in like sum.
The court had then adjourned the case until February 5, March 5, and March 6, for the continuation of trial.
However, on Tuesday, when journalists approached the court for coverage of the trial, it was observed that the case was not on the case list.
On inquiry, journalists were informed that the case had been transferred to Justice Obiozor by the Chief Judge, following an application to that effect.
Meanwhile, in Justice Obiozor’s court, the case was also not itemised on the case list, as the judge was said to be away on a workshop.
Also named in the charge against Usoro is the incumbent governor of Akwa Ibom, Gov. Emmanuel Udom, who is described in the charge as being “currently constitutionally immune from prosecution.”
Others charged are the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Finance, Nsikan Nkan; Accountant-General of Akwa Ibom State, Mfon Udomah; the Akwa Ibom State Attorney-General, Uwemedimo Nwoko, and Margaret Ukpe.
The defendants were said to be at large.
In the charge marked FHC/418c/18, the anti-graft agency alleged that the accused committed the offence on May 14, 2016.
The commission alleged that Usoro conspired with others, to commit the offence within the jurisdiction of the court.
He was alleged to have conspired to convert the sum of N1.4 billion, the property of Akwa Ibom State government, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of unlawful activity.
The prosecution said that the unlawful activity includes criminal breach of trust which contravenes the provisions of Section 15 (2), 15(3), and 18 (A) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.