The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has told the Federal High Court in Lagos that the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, spent state funds to hire many Senior Advocates of Nigeria to represent him at the election tribunal where his electoral victory as governor was being challenged in 2015.
An investigating officer of the EFCC, Abdulraman Arabo, told the court that the governor hired the immediate-past President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Mr Paul Usoro (SAN), who, in turn, invited other SANs to join him, and that the N1.4bn legal fee paid to the SANs was drawn from the treasury of the Akwa Ibom State’s account.
Arabo said this at the resumed money laundering trial of Usoro before Justice Rilwan Aikawa on Thursday. Usoro is facing amended six counts of money laundering.
Also named as defendants in the case are the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Finance, Nsikan Nkan; the state’s Accountant General, Mfon Udomah; the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Uwemedimo Nwoko; and the cashier at the Akwa Ibom State Government House, Margaret Ukpe.
At the Thursday proceeding, the prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Usman Buhari, through the investigator, Rabo, tendered Usoro’s Access Bank account package as an exhibit before the judge.
The prosecution also tendered the statements made to the EFCC by the SANs, whom Usoro invited to join him to handle Emmanuel’s election petition. The court admitted the statements as exhibits.
Fielding questions from the prosecutor, the investigator said after being paid legal fee from the Akwa Ibom State treasury, Usoro gave back N55m to the state’s Attorney General.
Under cross-examination, Usoro’s lawyer, Offiong Offiong (SAN), asked the investigator, “During your investigation, did you see that the money in issue was for legal fees of the service rendered to Governor Udom?”
Responding, the investigator said, “It is a payment made from government treasury for personal election tribunal pursuit of the governor.”
When Offiong pointed out to the investigator that his kick-back claim against Usoro was “scandalous”, the investigator said, “My Lord, what I said in my evidence-in-chief was that this defendant (Usoro) lodged the sum of N55m into the account of Akwa Ibom State Government Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Dr Uwemedimo Nwoko.”
Justice Aikawa adjourned till January 18-20, 2021 for further proceedings.