The ongoing trial of Paul Usoro, SAN, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, continued today, December 4, 2020, with the second prosecution witness, PW2, Abdulrahman Rabo, revealing to Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos how the defendant had paid the sum of N65m into the account of Uwemedimo Nwoko, Attorney- General, Akwa-Ibom State.
Usoro was first arraigned on December 18, 2018 before Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court.
He was later re-arraigned on March 1, 2019 before Justice Aikawa on a 10-count charge bordering on money laundering to the tune of N1.4bn brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
One of the counts reads: “That you, Paul Usoro, SAN, Emmanuel Udom (currently constitutionally immune against criminal prosecution), Uwemedimo Thomas Nwoko (still at large), Nsikan Linus Nkan, Commissioner of Finance, Akwa Ibom State (still at large), Mfon Jacobson Udomah, Accountant-General, Akwa Ibom State (still at large) and Margaret Thompson Ukpe (still at large), sometime in 2015 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable court, conspired amongst yourselves to commit an offence, to wit: conversion of the sum of N property of the Government of Akwa Ibom State of Nigeria, which sum you reasonably ought to have known forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity to wit: criminal breach of trust 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) of the same Act.”
He pleaded “not guilty” to the charge preferred against him.
At today’s sitting, Arabo, an investigator with the EFCC, told the court that Nwoko ignored the EFCC’s invitation when he was invited to corroborate the claims of the defendant that the sum of N65m paid into his personal account was payment for lawyers who handled the election tribunal matter in court.
When asked by the defence counsel, O.E.B Offiong, SAN, if he could not have called any of the lawyers who received the money from the Attorney General on the account of the defendant, Arabo said “The Attorney-General was the only one we could call because the money went into his personal account and it was natural to invite him as the sole signatory to the account.”
Arabo, during cross-examination, further told the court that though the EFCC had written letters to the Secretary to the State Government of Akwa-Ibom state requesting the release of certain officials, the Attorney-General was at that time not included because the need had not arisen.
He added: “However, when he was needed, he failed to show up.”
Justice Aikawa adjourned the case to January 20 and 21, 2021 for continuation of trial.