‘N1.23b fraud’: I’m too old to travel, says ex INEC chair Iwu

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A former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Maurice Iwu has asked the Federal High Court in Lagos to transfer his N1.23b fraud case to Abuja.

Iwu told Justice Nicolas Oweibo that at 70 years, he was too old to be making frequent trips from his Abuja residence to Lagos for trial.

Iwu is facing three counts of alleged fraud and money laundering filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)

The EFCC arraigned him last August 8 before Justice Chuka Obiozor, who granted him N1billion bail.

Following the transfer of the case to Justice Oweibo, the agency re-arraigned Iwu last October 24.

The EFCC alleged that he committed the offences between December 2014 and March 27, 2015.

The defendant pleaded not guilty.

The trial proper did not commence last October 25 as scheduled following the judge’s absence.

At the commencement of proceedings, Iwu’s counsel, Ahamed Raji SAN, told the court that the transfer was essential so that the defendant would not be subjected to unnecessary hardship.

He said Iwu resides in Abuja but always travelled to Lagos whenever the case came up.

“My Lord, this defendant is over 70 years of age, and he always travels down to Lagos and books a hotel whenever the case comes up. It will amount to great agony for him to continue with this trial in Lagos,” Raji said.

He contended that the transaction that led to the charge occurred in Abuja, thus the case should be tried in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

EFCC Counsel Rotimi Oyedepo opposed the application.

He told the judge that all the witnesses listed in the proof of evidence reside in Lagos and Ibadan, more so, the case was investigated by the committee’s Lagos Zonal office.

Oyedepo stated that all the banks officials listed in the proof of evidence to testify and the documents to tender are in Lagos.

He argued that the offence for which the defendant was charged “touches on the Economic well-being of Nigeria,” therefore such offence can be tried anywhere in Nigeria.

Relying on Section 98 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act, Oyedepo reasoned that only the court’s Chief Judge has power to transfer any matter.

Justice Oweibo adjourned till March 6, for ruling.

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