By Izunna Okafor, Awka
Facts have emerged on the actual reasons that led the arraignment of former Governor of Anambra State, Chief Dr. Willie Obiano, before Justice Inyang Edem Ekwo of the Abuja Federal High Court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Wednesday, January 24, 2024.
Recall that Obiano, who led Anambra State from March 17, 2014 to March 17, 2022, had earlier been grilled the anti-graft agency at a Lagos International Airport, on his way out of the country, just few hours after he handed over power to the current Governor Chukwuma Charles Soludo.
The Commission said the Ex-Governor Obiano had been on their watchlist for a long time but could not be arrested until the expiration of his immunity just hours before his arrest.
Investigations revealed that the former Governor was accused of having laundered and diverted a whopping sum of four billion naira (N4,008,573,350) from the coffers of the state government within his eight-year tenure, which led to his arraignment on nine-count charges bordering on the allegation.
Part of the charges reads: “That you, Chief Willie Maduabuchi Obiano, whilst being the Executive Governor of Anambra State of Nigeria between March 2014 – March 2022, sometime between the 16th February, 2018 and 9th March, 2018 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, did make cash transaction through a non-financial institution by instructing one Uzuegbuna Okagbue, your then Chief Protocol Officer/Deputy Chief of Staff to transfer the aggregate sum of N223,371,000 (Two Hundred and Twenty Three Million, Three Hundred and Seventy One Thousand Naira) only from the Anambra State Government Security Vote Account No 5030050875 domiciled at Fidelity Bank Plc into Connought International Services Limited, Fidelity Bank No 5540007709 ( a non-financial institution) which was converted to the equivalent of $600,000.00 (Six Hundred Thousand United States Dollars) and collected in cash from one Ayuba Tanko and handed over to you in cash by the said Uzuegbuna Okagbue and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) in 2012 and punishable under Section 16 (2) (b) of the same Act…
“That you, Chief Willie Maduabuchi Obiano, whilst being the Executive Governor of Anambra State of Nigeria between March 2014 – March 2022, sometime between 13th February 2018 to 2nd March 2022, in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, indirectly transferred through Mr Willie Nwokoye, your then principal private secretary, the sum of N1, 206, 760,310 Billion (One Billion, Two Hundred and Six Million, Seven Hundred and Sixty Thousand, Three Hundred and Ten Naira) only from the Anambra State Government Security Vote Account No: 5030050875 domiciled in Fidelity Bank Plc into the Fidelity Bank Plc Account No: 5600251033 belonging to Moment of Peace Ventures (an entity that had no business relationship with the Anambra State Government) which funds were dissipated for purposes unrelated/unconnected with the security affairs of Anambra State, which you reasonably ought to have known that such funds formed part of the proceeds of your unlawful act, to wit: (Stealing and Corruption) and you thereby committed an offense contrary to Section 15 (2) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) in 2912 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”
Chief Obiano, in his response, pleaded not guilty to all the charges when they were read to him.
In view of his plea, prosecution counsel, Slyvanus Tahir, SAN, asked for a trial date while praying the court for the remand of the defendant in a Correctional Centre pending the date of the trial.
Howbeit, Counsel to the defendant, Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, drew the attention of the court to a bail application before the court.
While ruling, Justice Ekwo, thereafter, asked the prosecution to provide the particulars of the administrative bail granted the defendant by the EFCC, stating that the court will adopt the terms of the bail.
He also ordered that the defendant’s passport and traveling documents be kept in the custody of the court, and that the Nigeria Immigration Service be notified of the arrangements.
Additionally, Justice Ekwo ordered the defendant not to travel outside jurisdiction without the permission of the court, and adjourned the matter to March 4, 5,6 & 7, 2024 for trial.