The trial of President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro, over N1.4 billion fraud, could not proceed on Tuesday before Justice Muslim Hassan of Federal High Court Lagos, following the transfer of the case to a new judge, Prof. Chuka Obiozor.
Usoro is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on a 10-count charge bordering on fraud.
Also named in the charge, is the incumbent governor of Akwa Ibom, Gov. Emmanuel Udom, who is described in the charge as being “currently constitutionally immune from prosecution”.
Others charged are: the Akwa Ibom State Commissioner for Finance, Nsikan Nkan; Accountant-General of Akwa Ibom State, Mfon Udomah; the Akwa Ibom State Attorney-General, Uwemedimo Nwoko and Margaret Ukpe.
The defendants were said to be at large.
Usoro was charged on Dec. 18, 2018 before Justice Hassan, and his plea was taken.
Hassan had subsequently admitted him to bail in the sum of N250 million with one surety in like sum.
The court had then adjourned the case until Feb. 5, March 5, and March 6, for continuation of trial.
However, on Tuesday, when journalists approached the court for coverage of the trial, it was observed that the case was not on the cause list.
On enquiry, journalists were informed that the case had been transferred to Justice Obiozor by the Chief Judge, following application to that effect.
Meanwhile in Justice Obiozor’s Court, the case was also not itemised on the cause list, as the judge was said to be away on a workshop.
In the charge marked FHC/418c/18, the anti graft agency alleged that the accused committed the offence on May 14, 2016.
The commission alleged that Usoro conspired with others, to commit the offence within the jurisdiction of the court.
He was alleged to have conspired to convert the sum of N1.4 billion, property of Akwa Ibom State Government, which sum they reasonably ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity.
The prosecution said that the unlawful activity include criminal breach of trust which contravenes the provisions of section 15 (2), 15(3), and 18 (A) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.