A full-blown trial of former Minister of Aviation, Senator Stella Adaeze Oduah and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) will kick-start at a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday, October 17 by the federal government.
Mrs Oduah and the China Construction giant will face prosecution for alleged fraud, money laundering and bribery running into N7.9bn.
Specifically, CCECC would be made to face trial for allegedly bribing Federal Government officials to the tune of N7.9billion through alleged transfers from its numerous bank accounts to the accounts of beneficiaries of the graft to facilitate government patronage.
Senator Oduah, on the other hand, will be prosecuted for allegedly accepting money from CCECC while she held sway as Minister of Aviation.
A cause list released on Monday by the Federal High Court indicates that the full-blown trial would be conducted by Justice Inyang Eden Ekwo in Abuja on October 17.
However, unlike the previous proceedings, the trial this time around will be coordinated and conducted by the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice on the order of the Federal High Court.
The EFCC was said to have been ordered to step aside from the trial following its involvement in some unlawful means that stalled the case for more than two years.
Mrs Oduah and eight others pleaded not guilty on Friday, July 21, 2023, to a N7.9 billion fraud charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
They were arraigned by the EFCC before Justice Inyang Ekwo of a Federal High Court in Abuja on a 25-count charge bordering on money laundering.
The former Aviation Minister was docked alongside three others: Gloria Odita, Nwobu Emmanuel Nnamdi and Irene Chukwuma and five companies, Global Offshore and Marine Limited, Tiptop Global Resources Limited, Crystal Television Limited, Sobora International Limited and China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC).
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Senator Oduah was arraigned on alleged N7.9 billion fraud and financial misappropriation while she served as Minister during the former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.
In the 25-count charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/316/2020, they were accused of conspiracy, money laundering and maintaining anonymous bank accounts with a commercial bank.
Count one of the charges reads, “that you, Stella Adaeze Oduah whilst being the Minister of Aviation, the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Gloria Odita whilst being the Company Secretary to Sea Petroleum & Gas Company Ltd (SPGC) and an aide to the former Minister of Aviation, Nwobu Emmanuel Nnamdi, whilst being an employee of Sea Petroleum & Gas Company Ltd (SPGC) and an aide to the former Minister of Aviation, Chukwuma Irene Chinyere, Global Offshore And Marine Limited, Tiptop Global Resources Limited, Crystal Television Limited, Sobora International Limited between January 2014 and April 2014 at Abuja within the judicial division of this Honourable Court did conspire among yourselves to commit an offence to wit: ‘Money Laundering’ and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (As Amended) and punishable under Section 15(3) and (4) of the same Act”.
Count 5 reads, “that you, Stella Adaeze Oduah whilst being the Minister of Aviation, the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Global Offshore and Marine Ltd, a Limited Liability Company registered under the Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on or about 12th February 2014 at Abuja within the Judicial Division of this Honourable Court took control of the sum of N1,629,250,000.00 (One Billion, Six Hundred and Twenty-Nine Million, Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand Naira) only and paid into the account of Global Offshore and Marine Ltd account No. 2022977296 domiciled with First Bank Plc from I-Sec Security Nig. Ltd accounts No. 2021756955 with First Bank Plc, which money you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 (As Amended) and punishable under Section 15(3) and (4) of the same Act.
The defendants had pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them.
Justice Ekwo granted bail to the defendants on the terms of the administrative bail earlier offered them by the EFCC and adjourned till October 17 for the commencement of trial.
It will be recalled that the commission had filed the charge against Oduah and others on December 17, 2020, but attempts to arraign them witnessed many twists and turns.
Several times the defendants were not available in court forcing adjournments, and when they were available, it was either counsel was pushing for adjournment on the grounds of settlement negotiations.