Paul Obi in Abuja
Justice P. I. Ajaku of the Federal High Court in Benin-city, Edo State, thursday ordered the Administrative Secretary of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Delta State, Uluocha Obi Brown, and a renowned legal practitioner and former President, Rotary Club, Benin-City, Percy Okojie, be remanded in prison custody.
The duo were arraigned before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on an eight-count amended charge, bordering on conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of N 111.5 million.
According to the EFCC Head of Media and Information, Wilson Uwujaren, “The defendants were docked for allegedly collecting the sum of N111, 500, 000 as bribe during the weeks leading to the 2015 presidential election.
“They are among the over 100 INEC officials who allegedly collected part of the $115million (N23billion) disbursed by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, during the countdown to the 2015 presidential election.
“Brown was arrested sometime in 2016, following an intelligence received by the EFCC on the activities of some INEC staff, allegedly conniving with the West African Network of Election Observers (WANEO) a Non- Governmental Organisation (NGO) to defraud the federal government of a huge sum of money, running into billions of naira during the 2015 general election.
Count one of the charge read: “That you Uluocha Obi Brown and Percy Okojie and others now at large on March 27, 2015, in Benin within the jurisdiction of this court did conspire among yourselves to receive cash payment in the sum of N111,500,000.00 exceeding the statutory limit without going through a financial institution and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2012 as amended and punishable under Section 15 (3) and (4) of the same Act.”
Count two of the charge read: “That you Uluocha Obi Brown on March 7, 2015, in Benin within the jurisdiction of this court did retain, and disguised the origin of the $80,000.00 which you paid into First Bank (domiciliary account) with account number 2024017909 knowing that the said amount forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 (2) (a) and (d) of the Money laundering ( Prohibition) Act 2012 as amended and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges when they were read to them.
In view of their pleas, prosecution counsel, Sadiq Hussaini, asked the court for a trial date and pleaded that the defendants be remanded in prison custody.
However, counsel to the 1st defendant, Chief F. O. Orbir (SAN), told the court that he had filed a bail application for his client.
He said the alleged offences were bailable and that the defendant was earlier placed on administrative bail by the prosecution and urged the court to grant his prayers. Counsel to the 2nd defendant, K. O. Obamogie, made same prayers.
Hussaini opposed their prayers, submitting that he needed time to respond.
In her ruling, Justice Ajaku turned down the defendant’s application for bail, stressing that the prosecution has a right to respond.
She also adjourned the matter to June 17 for argument on bail applications and June 30 for trial, and ordered the defendants to be remanded in prison custody pending the determination of their bail applications.