The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has sent a petition against a judge handling a suit over the seizure of the passport of Willie Obiano, the immediate-past governor of Anambra State, who is under the commission’s investigations.
Disclosing this in a statement on Saturday, the anti-graft agency questioned the impartiality of Hyeladzira Nganjiwa of the Federal High Court in Awka, Anambra State, in issuing an order permitting the former governor to travel abroad in March.
The commission said in the statement by its spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, that it had petitioned the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to seek Mr Nganjiwa’s withdrawal from the case.
Mr Obiano who was placed on EFCC’s watch list, last year, was arrested at the Murtala Muhammad International Airport, Lagos, few hours after he handed over as governor on March 17.
It was reported that Mr Obiano who spent six nights in EFCC custody, was trying to board a flight to Houston in the U.S when he was arrested.
The commission released him on March 23 with his passport seized from him as part of the bail conditions granted him.
But his probe over money laundering which he allegedly committed while in office between 2014 and 2022 continues, EFCC said on Saturday.
It turned out that Mr Obiano had obtained an order from Mr Nganjiwa to embark on a foreign trip by the time he was arrested at the Lagos airport few hours after his successor, Governor Charles Soludo, on March 17.
“The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has kicked against an interim order made ex parte by the Awka Division of the Federal High Court presided over by Justice Hyeladzira A. Nganjiwa granting the former Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano leave to travel abroad to the United States of America to attend to his medical appointment, on the grounds of denial of fair hearing,” the anti-graft agency’s statement read in part.
The commission pointed out what appears to be a contradiction in the order issued by Mr Ngajiwa last month ahead of Mr Obiano’s handing over to enable him to travel abroad on health grounds.
The statement stated, “Available court documents indicate that Obiano had on March 11, 2022, ahead of his handover on March 17, 2022, filed a motion ex parte dated March 10, 2022 before Justice Nganjiwa praying among others, for an interim injunction stopping the EFCC from arresting or preventing him from travelling out of the country for his medical treatment.
“While the court in one breath ordered the applicant to put the commission on notice why interim preservatory order should not be granted, it went ahead to make an order that the commission should not obstruct, impede or prevent the applicant from travelling abroad to keep his medical appointment and adjourned till March 23.”
EFCC added that on March 31, Mr Obiano’s fundamental rights suit was served on it.
It added that Mr Obiano followed this by filing another motion on notice on April 4.
The fresh motion, according to Mr Uwujaren, put the commission on notice of Mr Obiano’s prayer for the release of his passport to enable him to travel abroad for his medical appointment.
He said the court fixed April 6 for the hearing of the motion and gave instructions that proceedings would be conducted virtually via Zoom.
Mr Uwujaren said the EFCC, ahead of the hearing, petitioned the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court to seek the withdrawal of Mr Nganjiwa.
As the grounds for the petition, the commission recalled that it had previously prosecuted Mr Nganjiwa on corruption charges in a case that truncated by the Court of Appeal. The appeal of whether the commission can proceed against Mr Nganjiwa is now pending at the Supreme Court.
“Ahead of the hearing, the Commission petitioned the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court asking that Justice Nganjiwa recuse himself from the fundamental rights action on the grounds that he is a party in the Commission’s appeal at the Supreme Court in the corruption case, H. A. Nganjiwa VS. FRN,” EFCC said.
But despite the petition, the matter, according to the EFCC, came up on April 6, but Mr Nganjiwa was represented by another judge.
“But when the case was called, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba held the brief of his brother judge, who is bereaved.
“The case was subsequently adjourned, with instruction that counsel will be notified of the adjourned date,” the statement said.
Although details of the allegations against Mr Obiano are still sketchy, media reports have said the governor of Anambra State for two terms is being quizzed by EFCC detectives over alleged misappropriation of public funds, including N5 billion Sure-P and N37 billion security vote which was withdrawn in cash.
Part of the money was also said to have been diverted to fund political activities in the state.
“Obiano was arrested for alleged misappropriation of public funds, including, N5bn Sure-P and N 37 Billion security vote which was withdrawn in cash. Part of the funds was also allegedly diverted to finance political activities in the state,” EFCC’s spokesperson, Mr Uwujaren, was quoted as telling Punch.
Mr Uwujaren did not give details of the ongoing investigations apart on Saturday, apart from stating that Mr Obiano was being investigated over “alleged corruption and money laundering during his tenure as Anambra State governor from 2014 to 2022”.
EFCC chair, Mr Bawa, also said the commission would not disclose details of the ongoing investigation against Mr Obiano.
“I don’t know what update you want me to give, because you have been accusing us of media trials, and you want me to say we are doing this and that. No, we (EFCC) would not do that. We would continue to do our investigation professionally as we have been doing,” he said while fielding questions from reporters during an event in Abuja.
Source : Premium Times