The arraignment of former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, on Monday, suffered a setback at the Federal High Court, Abuja, over a letter from the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation calling for the case review.
Justice Inyang Ekwo had on October 20, fixed today for the arraignment of Ms Oduah over allegations bordering on fraud while she served in public office.
Ms Oduah, who currently represents Anambra North Senatorial District at the National Assembly and eight others, were expected to be arraigned by the EFCC for fraud and financial misappropriation.
When they were about to take their plea to a 25-count charge, a defence counsel, Oguh Onoja, raised an objection in open court, informing that a petition had already been written to the AGF to complain that the defendants were being persecuted.
Mr Onoja explained that a letter from the AGF to the EFCC had called for the review of the matter, but that the anti-graft agency refused to return the case file to the AGF. He then presented the certified true copy of the letter to the judge.
“My lord, we are of the strongest view that plea cannot be taken on this matter.
“There was a petition written to the Attorney General of the Federation which is a complaint made against this prosecution because we found out that this trial was a persecution and we got a response from the AGF.
“The AGF requested for the file and up till now, the EFCC has refused to send the case file to the AGF.
“This case is a matter of persecution and is not a prosecution. Based on that, we have the objection that this plea cannot be taken.
“I have a certified true copy of the letter from the AGF written to the EFCC,” he said.
Counsel to the EFCC, U. Uket disagreed, contending that even though he was just seeing the letter, a petition could not stop a plea from being taken.
“The AGF has powers to intervene, continue or discontinue a case. The fact that a petition has been written to the AGF does not stop the plea from being taken,” he said.
Justice Ekwo noted that a constitutional issue had been raised and he was not going to deal with it “summarily.”
Justice Ekwo had on July 12, threatened to issue a warrant of arrest against the former minister if she failed to appear in court by the next adjourned date.
The judge had given the warning after the EFCC told the court that Ms Oduah and one other defendant were not in court to take their plea.
Other defendants in the suit include Gloria Odita, Nwobu Emmanuel Nnamdi, Chukuma Irene Chinyere, Global Offshore and Marine Limited; Crystal Television Limited, among others.