The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on Thursday arraigned a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Maurice Iwu, for an alleged fraud of N1.23bn.
Iwu was arraigned on four counts before the Federal High Court in Lagos.
In the charges, the EFCC alleged that he committed the offence in the build-up to the 2015 general elections in which President Muhammadu Buhari defeated then-incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.
According to the EFCC, Iwu, between December 2014 and March 27, 2015, “aided the concealment of N1.23bn in the account of Bioresources Institute of Nigeria Limited with number 1018603119, domiciled in the United Bank for Africa.”
The EFCC said Iwu “ought to have reasonably known that the N1.23bn formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: fraud.”
The prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, told the court that the ex-INEC chairman acted contrary to sections 18(a) and 15 (2) (a) of the Money Laundering ((Prohibition) Act 2011 and was liable to be punished under Section 15(3) of the same Act.
When the charges were read to him, however, Iwu pleaded not guilty.
The prosecutor prayed the court for a trial date and an order remanding him in prison.
Iwu’s lawyer, Mr Ahmed Raji (SAN), however, told Justice Chuka Obiozor that he had filed a bail application on behalf of his client, which had been served on the prosecution.
But Oyedepo, who said he only got a copy of the bail application in court on Thursday morning, told the judge that he intended to oppose it and, therefore, needed time to study it.
Following agreement by the lawyers, Justice Obiozor adjourned till Friday to take arguments on the bail application.
In the meantime, Raji urged the judge to order that Iwu be either returned to the custody of the EFCC or released to him to produce him in court on his (Raji’s) honour and integrity.
But Oyedepo opposed both options, arguing that having been arraigned, the proper place to remand Iwu was the prison custody.
However, Raji insisted that having been kept in the EFCC custody in the last five days, “heaven will not fall if he was kept there for another one day.”
Earlier, while saying that Iwu’s freedom was important to him, Raji told the court that though he was billed to travel to Saudi Arabia on Friday, “I am stepping down my journey for his liberty.”
He urged the judge to note Iwu’s “age and pedigree.”
In a short ruling, Justice Obiozor directed that Iwu be returned to EFCC custody and produced before him on Friday for his bail application.