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Ex-Head of Chambers arraigned for stealing N188.7m from late SAN’s office

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Tom Awhana, the former Head of the Law Office of  Mogbeyi Sagay (SAN) and Co., was on Friday docked at an Ikeja Special Offences Court for allegedly stealing N188.7million from the chambers.

 

Sagay, a late Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) was until his death in 2012, the Principal of his chambers.

 

The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Awhana was arraigned alongside Paul Okoro, a former lawyer in the law firm by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

 

Okoro was also accused by the EFCC of stealing N3.6million from the firm.

 

Awhana and Okoro pleaded not guilty to a joint- charge of conspiracy to steal.

 

Okoro denied a charge of stealing while Awhana plead not guilty to a 16-count charge of stealing.

 

According to the EFCC, Awhana was the Head of Chambers of the law firm of Mogbeyi Sagay and Co., from 2010 to 2018.

 

He and three administrators of the late SAN’s estate were the signatories to the law firm’s Zenith Bank Account.

 

It was allegedly mandated that three persons out of the four administrators could withdraw money with the cheque booklet of the Zenith Bank account in Awhana’s possession.

 

The prosecution said that the staff of the firm did not know that other administrators and Awhana had opened other secret bank accounts in the name of the chambers in other banks.

 

They were at: FCMB, Union Bank and Heritage Bank Plc., respectively.

 

The anti-graft agency alleged that first defendant (Awhana) had diverted drawn cheques into those secret accounts.

 

It added that he was also alleged to have stolen the sum of N188.7million belonging to Mogbeyi Sagay (SAN) and Co., from 2012 to 2017.

 

The prosecution also alleged that the second defendant, Okoro, had stolen N3.6million belonging to the law firm from Oct. 14, 2012 to June 28, 2013.

 

According to the EFCC, the offences contravene Sections 287 and 409 of the Criminal Law of Lagos state, 2015.

 

Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, the lead prosecuting counsel for the anti-graft agency, requested for a trial date after the plea by the defendants.

 

Oyedepo also advised the court to impose stiff bail conditions on the lawyers.

 

“I have discussed with my learned friends, I will leave it to My Lordship to impose bail conditions that will make the defendants available in court throughout this trial,” Oyedepo said.

 

Ms Oluwaseun Olusiyi, the defence counsel to Awhana, through a bail application dated May 17 asked the court to grant him bail in self recognisance.

 

“The first defendant is a legal practitioner of high repute and negotiations toward an amicable resolution are underway with the complainant.

 

“He was the Head of Chambers of the firm,” Olusiyi said.

 

Mr K. U Ani, the counsel to Okoro who is the second defendant in his bail application dated May 17, also asked the court to grant Okoro bail on self recognisance.

 

“The second defendant has fractured his legs and is depending on medical treatment. I ask that you grant him bail on self recognizance, My Lord,” he said.

 

NAN reports that Justice Mojisola Dada in a short ruling noted that settlement talks were ongoing between the complainant and the defendants.

 

She ordered that as a bail condition, Awhana and Okoro should submit their international passports to the court.

 

“The defendants shall, however, submit their international passports pending the determination of this suit.

 

“They shall be remanded in prison custody till the perfection of their bail condition. This case is adjourned until June 4 for trial,” she said.

Edited by Peter Dada

Judiciary

Respondent alleges threat to life at Abia election tribunal

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A respondent, Mr Emeka Okoroafor on Wednesday told the National and State Assembly Election Petition Tribunal, sitting in Abia that his life is currently being threatened by unknown persons.

Okoroafor, a second respondent, alleged that he is being threatened in connection with the petition filed against him by Mr John Ogele, candidate of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).

Ogele had approached the tribunal to challenge the victory of Okoroafor of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the March 9, 2019 House of Assembly election for Isuikwato state constituency.

Nigeria News Agency , reports that Ogele who came fourth in the election, is asking the tribunal to return him as winner.

The petitioner, a two-term member of Abia assembly, alleged alteration and swapping of the election results.

During Wednesday’s proceedings however, the respondent raised alarm before the Justice Cornelius Akintayo-led three-member tribunal, immediately after he was being cross-examined as a star witness.

Okoroafor, the Chairman of Justice and Judiciary and Public Petition committees, claimed that some unknown persons had been trailing him in the past couple of days.

“My lord, I have been finding it difficult to go to my constituency, you see somebody trailing you, you park, he parks, you move, he moves.

“It has made it difficult for me to sleep over in Isuikwato since the commencement of this trial,” he said.

Okoroafor alleged that he witnessed a similar incident prior to the election where he was nearly kidnapped, but miraculously escaped.

He told the court that he was handicapped as he could not engage security agents because of the pending trial.

But Mr C.C Elele, counsel to the petitioner, debunked the allegation arguing that Okoroafor was only trying to whip up sentiment in the ongoing trial.

He said that the respondent, who is also a learned colleague, was being callous and unfair, stressing that he was at liberty to contact security agents if there was such a threat.

In his response, Ogele said it was a grievous allegation against him and urged the tribunal to discountenance it.

“I only accosted the respondent on Monday for bringing people who are not presiding officers to appear in court as witnesses,” Ogele said.

Akintayo, however, advised the respondent to contact the police for any complaint, adding that anything concerning threat to life or assault was outside the tribunal’s jurisdiction.

Meanwhile, he gave the petitioners five days to file their written arguments and three days for respondents to reply on point of law.

The matter was adjourned to Sept. 4, for adoption of final written addresses.

Edited by Nyisom Fiyigon Dore

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Judiciary

Election petition: AD, LP want Sanwo-Olu, others subpoenaed

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Chief Owolabi Salis, Alliance for Democracy Governorship  Candidate for Lagos State in the 2019 General Elections, and his Labour Party counterpart, Mr Ifagbemi Awamaridi, on Wednesday prayed that INEC be subpoenaed to testify before the Lagos State Election Petition Tribunal.

In a motion exparte, the candidates urged the  tribunal to also compel the state Gov. Babajide Sanwo-Olu to appear before it.

The Nigeria News Agency reports that the duo alleged that Sanwo-Olu, INEC, the INEC Resident Electoral Commissioner for Lagos State and the Returning Officer for Lagos State did not want to come and testify over their petitions challenging Sanwo-Olu’s election.

In the motion supported by a nine-paragraph affidavit, they prayed the tribunal to consider the time frame within which the petitioners  would call witnesses,.

The motion exparte was brought pursuant to Order 8, Rule 1(3)&(4) of the Electoral Act (as amended), 2010.

The three-man panel chaired by Justice Terhemen Asua granted the motion to serve the respondents by pasting on the INEC office wall but declined to subpoena the governor, citing the Immunity Clause in the constitution.

“Upon perusing of the motion exparte, we are satisfied that the good cause has been shown by the petitioners.

“But as far as the first respondent, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu is concerned, he is covered by the Immunity Clause as a sitting governor; he cannot be compelled to appear in court,”  Asua said.

NAN reports that the applicants had filed petitions against Sanwo-Olu challenging, his victory in the March 9 gubernatorial election in Lagos State.

The other respondents are INEC, All Progressives Congress, Lagos State  Resident Electoral Commissioner, the state Returning Officer, the state  commissioner of police and the army.

Proceedings in the tribunal will continue on Thursday.

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Judiciary

Tribunal dismisses Shehu Sani’s petition

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The National and State Assembly Election Petitions Tribunal sitting in Kaduna on Wednesday dismissed the petition of Sen. Shehu Sani of Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) for lack of merit.

Shehu Sani had approached the Tribunal asking it to nullify the election of Sen. Uba Sani of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as senator of Kaduna Central Senatorial District.

Uba Sani, a former Political Adviser to Gov. Nasir El-Rufai,  won the Feb. 16, 2019 election with 355, 242 votes.

His closest contestant, Lawal Adamu of the PDP, scored 195,497 votes while Shehu Sani was a distant third with 70,613 votes.

Chairman of the three-man Tribunal, Justice A. H. Suleiman in a judgment that lasted two hours, said that Sen. Shehu Sani’s petition had no substance and lacked merit.

He said that the petitioner had failed to present convincing evidence to warrant the nullification of the election.

The lead counsel to Sen. Uba Sani, Frank Igbe hailed the Tribunal for a fair judgment.

He thanked all those that contributed to the success of the case and urged those not satisfied with the ruling to proceed to the Court of Appeal.

Meanwhile, counsel to Shehu Sani who were present at the court declined comment on the verdict.

However, his lead counsel, Mr Morris Odeh, who was away in Benue, told a NAN correspondent on phone, that he would only comment after consulting with his client and other colleagues who were in court.

Meanwhile, the Tribunal has fixed August 24, for ruling in the petition of the  Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and its candidate Lawal Adamu, who were also challenging the election of Uba Sani.

In another development, the Tribunal has fixed Monday, Aug. 26, to rule on the petition of Mr Barnabas Bantex, former deputy governor of Kaduna State.

Bantex, who contested for Senate under APC to represent Kaduna South Senatorial district, is challenging the re-election of Sen. Danjuma Lah of the PDP in the Feb. 16 polls.

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Judiciary

My reappointment, collective efforts of the staff – Malami

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 Malami reiterates his commitment to the collective welfare of the staff.

He charged them to be more proactive in their duties as they have collective responsibility to work as family.

According to him, ‘Malami’s coming back to the Ministry showed that, Mr President recognised his good work during the last four years which he definitely wanted him to come back and finished.

He congratulated the Staff of the Ministry and enjoined them to cooperate with the Minister in order to take the Ministry to the next level.

edited by Sadiya Hamza

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Judiciary

2 docked over alleged unlawful possession of military kits

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Two men, Mutiu Ogundeji, 32, and Hakeem Adeagbo, 26,  on Wednesday appeared before Mrs Imoleayo Akinrodoye, the President of a Mapo Grade ‘A’ Customary Court in Ibadan, charged with posing as military officers.

The suspects, whose addresses were not provided, are facing a two-count charge of unlawful possession and impersonation.

Police prosecutor, Ayodele Ayeni told the Court that the defendants were arrested on Monday at Bode area of Ibadan, after some concerned members of the community, who knew them to be jobless, alerted the police of their activities in the neighbourhood.

He tendered two pairs of military trousers, two camouflage shirts, two underweares, two caps, four pairs of socks and a sweater as exhibits found in possession of the duo.

In their defence, each of the suspects confessed to being in possession of military uniforms, but denied using them for armed robbery or any fraudulent purpose.

Akinrodoye went ahead to admit the defendants to bail in the sum of N200,000 each with two reliable sureties each in like sum.

She later adjourned the case till Aug. 30 for continuation of hearing.

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