Obiano challenges court’s jurisdiction in alleged N4bn fraud case

Willie Obiano
Willie Obiano

A Federal High Court in Abuja has fixed March 7 to hear a motion filed by former Anambra State governor Willie Obiano challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the alleged N4 billion fraud charge filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The suspect was arraigned on January 24 on a nine-count charge bordering on alleged money laundering.

Obiano pleaded not guilty to the charges.

On Monday, Obiano’s counsel Onyechi Ikpeazu informed the court that he had filed a motion challenging its jurisdiction on behalf of his client.

Counsel to the EFCC Sylvanus Tahir, however, said that he had yet to file a reply because he was served the motion on Monday morning in court.

Tahir also said that the issue of jurisdiction had been settled by the Supreme Court and that once the charge bordered on money laundering, the Federal High Court had inherent jurisdiction to try it.

The trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo advised the prosecutor to do his part by filing his response to the motion.

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“It is not for you to tell the court the Supreme Court’s decision on the issue. Respond to the motion and leave the court to decide,” Ekwo said.

Obiano, who was governor between March 2014 and March 2022, is said to have diverted the money from the state’s account dedicated to security funds in his last five years in office.

He allegedly directed the diversion of the funds from the state’s account between April 2017 and March 2022 and spent the money for purposes unconnected to the security affairs of the state.

The funds, according to the EFCC, were diverted through companies that had no business relationship with the Anambra government, converted to dollars and handed over to the former governor in dollars.

The case, filed by the EFCC, detailed the nine companies allegedly used to divert the funds from the state government’s security vote account.