The scheduled arraignment of a former Minister of Aviation, Senator Stella Oduah, before Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court Abuja, was on Monday, 22 November stalled.
Oduah, now a senator representing Anambra North Senatorial district in the Senate, was to be arraigned on a 25-count charge bordering on fraud and financial misappropriation, alongside eight other defendants.
Recall that Oduah had decamped from the People’s Democratic Party to the All Progressives Congress.
Oduah and her co-accused persons could not take plea because of an application by one of the defence lawyers, Ogwu Onoja SAN, asking the court not to go on with the plea taking.
According to him, a petition was written to the AGF in which there was a complaint that the defendants were been persecuted.
Onoja contended that the EFCC had refused to return the case file to the AGF as requested by his office. Onoja then presented the letter to the judge, The Whistler reports
“My lord, we are of the strongest view that a plea cannot be taken on this matter.
“There was a petition written to the Attorney General of the Federation which is a complaint was made against this prosecution, because we found out that this trial was a persecution and we got a response from the AGF.
“The AGF requested for the file and up till now, the EFCC has refused to send the case file to the AGF.
“This case is a matter of persecution and is not a prosecution. Based on that, we have the objection that this plea cannot be taken.
“I have a certified true copy of the letter from the AGF written to the EFCC,” he said.
On his part, the EFCC lawyer, U. Uket contended that even though he was just seeing the letter, a petition does not stop a plea from being taken.
He added: “The AGF has powers to intervene, continue or discontinue a case.
“The fact that a petition has been written to the AGF does not stop the plea from being taken.”
But presiding judge Inyang Ekwo, observed that a constitutional issue has been raised and he was not going to deal with it “summarily.”
Instead of the plea being taken, the judge rather adjourned the matter for the adoption of a written address.
“Upon this matter coming up for plea today, the attention of this court has been drawn to a letter from the Chambers of AGF, dated February 4 and written to the acting chairman of the EFCC requiring that the file of this matter be remitted to the AGF for a review of this case.
“I have heard the arguments from lawyers. I am not going to treat this matter lightly.
“Therefore I make an order that the prosecution shall file and serve a written address on this matter within 30 days, which will be limited to 15 pages.
“Learned counsel of the seventh defendant is to file a response. I will also order the other learned counsels to file written addresses upon being served by the prosecution.
“Now, upon that being done, I will then make an order to adjourn this matter for the adoption of written address.
“The defendant shall continue on administrative bail until this issue is resolved. Case adjourned to 10 February 2022 for adoption,” he said.