Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court Abuja, has again adjourned ruling on the freezing of accounts belonging to the fourth, fifth and sixth defendants in the money laundering trial of a former Head of Service of the Federation (HoS) Winifred Oyo-Ita and others, till February 24, 2021.
Oyo Ita was arraigned on 18-count charge bordering on fraud and money laundering to the tune of over N570, 000, 000 (Five Hundred and Seventy Million Naira). She is alleged to have obtained estacodes and duty tour allowance, DTA, for journeys either not undertaken or non-existent.
Others that were arraigned along with Oyo-Ita are: Frontline Ace Global Services Limited; Asanaya Projects Limited; Garba Umar and his companies: Slopes International Limited and Gooddeal Investments Limited. Ubong Okon Effiok was equally arraigned with his companies: U & U Global Services Limited and Prince Mega Logistics Limited.
One of the counts against Oyo-Ita reads: “That you WINIFRED OYO-ITA (aka Winifred Ekanett), whilst being the Head of Civil Service of the Federation between 2nd August, 2016 and 28th February, 2018 within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, took possession of an aggregate Sum of N62,215,169 (Sixty Two Million, Two Hundred and Fifteen Thousand, One Hundred and Sixty Nine Naira) only paid into your Zenith Bank account No: 1001074067 knowing that the said funds formed part of the proceed of an unlawful activity to wit: fraud (purported estacodes, fee for journeys not embarked on) and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15(3) of the same Act”.
The defendants pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charges.
After their arraignment, the EFCC originated a non-conviction forfeiture process before Justice F. Ogunbanjo of the Federal High Court, who granted an order freezing the accounts of some of the defendants as sought by Commission.
Dissatisfied by the freeze order, the defendants challenged the propriety of the Order before Justice Taiwo, claiming it amounted to an abuse of court process.
At the last adjourned date, December 2, 2020 Justice Taiwo had fixed February 11, for ruling on the propriety of the freeze order after the defendants had been properly arraigned before him.
However at the mention of the case on Thursday, the trial judge noted that the ruling was not ready as the court had to take into account all the submissions, including processes that the prosecution was mandated to submit.
According to him, “as an oversight, the court did not know that the prosecution had filed documents before the court, therefore it will have to adjourn the matter to enable the court deliver ruling on the submission made on the freezing order by my learned brother, Justice Ogunbanjo.”