The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned 22 officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and a retired INEC director, Ahmed Stephen Ozouche, in Kogi State for offences bordering on criminal conspiracy.
They were arraigned before Justice Alaba Ajileye of the Kogi State High Court, Koton-Karefee.
It was alleged that sometimes in March 2015, the defendants engaged themselves in criminal act of conspiracy to fraudulently obtain the sum of N32, 120,000 (Thirty two Million, One Hundred and Twenty Thousand Naira) only as benefits to themselves during the 2015 general elections.
Prosecuting counsel, G.K. Latona, informed the court that the matter was slated for arraignment. “However, due to the absence of the second defendant, I will be seeking for a short adjournment to enable me determine the next step to take regarding the matter,” he said.
The defendant was said to be among the INEC staff that lost their lives in a tragic motor accident that occurred in Kogi recently.
The defence team, however, argued that “the prosecution ought to have known by now that the second defendant cannot be in court to take his plea”, and so urged the court to take the plea of the defendants in court. Justice Ajileye, thereafter, ordered those present should take their pleas.
One of the counts reads: “That you Ahmed Stephen Ozovehe, Retired Director with Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC)/ Election Observer, Adison Mailafiya Administrative Secretary INEC Kogi State and Ogwudu Edeh Micheal, Deputy Director, INEC sometime in March 2015 in Lokoja within the Jurisdiction of this Honorable Court did engage yourselves in criminal conspiracy to confer benefit of the sum of N32,120,000 (Thirty two million, one hundred and twenty thousand naira) only from Haliru Haruna, Sase David Z, Dauda Usman Umaru, Christopher Utile, Garba Zubairu Adamu and James Yiyeh all electoral officers of INEC in Kogi State in relation to their function of conducting the General Elections, 2015 and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 26(1)(i) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Act. 2000 and punishable under Section 10(a)(ii) of the same Act.”
They all pleaded “not guilty” when the charge was read to them.
They were afterwards admitted to bail in the sum of N10 million, one surety in like sum, the surety must not be below level 12 and must be a Civil Servant (State or Federal).
Matter has been adjourned to December 6 and 13, 2018 for hearing.
In another development, the EFCC also arraigned Helena Chinelo Odogwu a cash officer at United Bank for Africa, Adankolo Branch Lokoja, before Justice Ajileye on a one-count charge bordering on theft and misappropriation of N8 million ( Eight Million naira) only.
It was alleged by a petitioner that the defendant stole from the vault and misappropriated the said sum of money when she was the cash officer.
In the course of the investigation it was discovered that N8m was missing from the vault and the defendant manipulated the record of the bank to conceal the fraudulent act.
The charge reads: “That you Helena Chinelo Odogwu on or about the 17th day of July, 2018 in Lokoja within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court while being the cash officer of Adankolol branch of United Bank of Africa (UBA) Lokoja, stole the sum of Eight Million Naira (N8, 000,000) being money belonging to the United Bank for Africa and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 286 of the Penal Code Law and punishable under Section 287 of the same Act.”
The defendant pleaded “not guilty” to the charge.
The defendant was thereafter admitted to bail in sum of N5m, one surety in like sum; surety must not be below the level of a principal officer.
Matter has been adjourned to December 13, 2018 for hearing.