Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned the Edo State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 2016 governorship candidate, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and the state Chairman of the party, Chief Dan Orbih, before a Federal High Court in Benin for money laundering.
Also charged were former state Deputy Governor, Mr. Lucky Imasuen; former member representing Esan South East and Esan North East federal constituency in the House of Representatives, Tony Azigbemi, and one Efe Erimuoghae Anthony.
While Ize-Iyamu and Orbih were absent in court but were represented by their counsel, the three others were present in court.
The five are facing an eight-count charge of conspiracy with themselves to commit money laundering to the tune of N700 million, an offence contrary to section 18(a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended which is punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act.
The anti-crime agency said it may re-arrest Ize-Iyamu since he was not in court to be arraigned along others over alleged money laundering charges.
EFCC said it would get in touch with Ize-Iyamuâ€™s surety on the administrative bail and make effort to re-arrest him.
Counsel to the EFCC, L.P. Aso, who spoke yesterday in Benin-city when the three other persons were arraigned before a Federal High Court for allegedly laundering the sum of N700 million, also said the former Chairman, Board of Trustee (PDP) of the PDP, Chief Tony Anenih, was listed in the charges but was said to be at large.
The absence of Ize-Iyamu and Orbih stalled the arraignment as the EFCC counsel told the court that it was the duty of the commission to produce the accused persons and not for the accused persons to bring themselves to court.
Aso informed the court that all the accused persons had filed application for bail and asked for the court to adjourn to enable the EFCC produce all the defendants in court.
In the charges preferred against Ize-Iyamu and others, the EFCC accused them of taking possession and control of the sum of N700million without any contract award which they ought to know the money form part of an unlawful act.
They were alleged to have made cash payment of N60,650,000 to one Henry Tenebe of Estako West Local Government Area and N61,647,000 to one Momoh Andrew Ojo of Akoko-Edo without going through a financial institution.
In count five, six and seven, they were alleged to have made cash payment of N83,473,000, N125,993,000 and N105,000,000 to Deacon Ezekiel Egharevba, Thomas Aroko and Scott Osagiede respectively without going through a financial institution.
Counsel to Ize-Iyamu and Orbih, Ikide Chiehelua and Chief Ferdinand Orbih (SAN) told the court their clients travelled outside the country.
They, however, promised that their clients were prepared to face trials and would be back by next Tuesday.
Ferdinand Orbih said: â€œI have his instruction that he will be back to answer to the charges. He is ready and willing to defend himself. His absence is not borne out of disrespect for the court. He was not served about the arraignment. He only heard about it and he instructed me to appear for him.â€
Consequently, Justice P. I. Adjokwu adjourned the case to June 11.