Court has Threatened Stella Oduah with Arrest Warrant Over Alleged N5 Billion Fraud

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On Monday, a Federal High Court in Abuja ordered to issue an arrest warrant for Stella Oduah, the former Minister of Aviation, if she did not appear before the court by the next adjourned date. After Dr. Hassan Liman, counsel for the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) in the alleged N5 billion case involving Oduah and eight others, testified that the former minister and one other defendant were not in court to take their plea, Justice Inyang Ekwo issued the caution.

According to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), the former minister and eight others were scheduled to be arraigned on February 9th. The trial could not proceed because Oduah, who presently serving Anambra North Senatorial District in the National Assembly, had not been served with the court papers. The court also set April 19 for the arraignment, however, the matter was postponed owing to a strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN).

In a case dubbed FHC/ABJ/CR/316/20, the politician is accused of fraud together with others. While acting as Minister of Aviation, Oduah is accused of misappropriating public money that amounted to N5 billion, according to the anti-corruption agency.

When the case was called, Liman stated that the anti-corruption agency had carried out the court injunction issued on February 9 and that the case was slated for trial. The judge issued a substituted service instruction on the 5th and 6th defendants in the trial on February 22, 2020. He stated that the order has been carried out. 

However, because the court did not convene on the last scheduled date, Justice Ekwo stated that today's hearing should be for a review of the situation and that a new date for trial would be set. Liman, when asked how many witnesses he would be calling, told the court that the EFCC would call at least 32 witnesses to testify in the trial. He further stated that some of the witnesses are within the court's jurisdiction whereas some are not within. He went on to say that on the first day of the prosecution, the agency would present two witnesses.

The lawyer drew the court's attention to the reality that Oduah, the first defendant in the case, and another defendant designated as the fourth defendant in the case were both absent from court. Ekwo added that a new date for the hearing will be scheduled and that it is fine if they fail to appear before the court. 

The Judge said that he would proceed with the trial after the plea is taken. As a result, Ekwo issued a warning that any defendant who did not appear in court on the next scheduled date will be issued an arrest warrant. He postponed the arraignment and trial until Oct. 19.

Source: vanguard

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