Justice Babs Kuewumi of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Thursday, January 10, 2019, adjourned to March 13, 2019, a N3.5bn fraud trial involving Gbenga Makanjuola, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Senator Bukola Saraki, and three others.
Makanjuola alongside Kolawole Shittu, cashier to Senate; Robert Chidozie Mbonu, a former Managing Director, Societe Generale Bank of Nigeria, SGBN (at large), Melrose General Services Limited and Obiora Amobi, Operation Manager, Melrose General Services Limited were arraigned on October 3, 2018 on an amended 11-count charge bordering on alleged conspiracy, accepting cash payment beyond threshold and money laundering to the tune of N3.5billion ((Three Billion, Five Hundred Million Naira) only.
One of the counts reads: “That you, Gbenga Makanjuola, sometime in December 2016 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did accept cash payment of the sum of $500, 000. 00 (Five Hundred Thousand Dollars) only from Kolawole Shittu without going through a financial institution and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 (as amended by Act No. 1 of 2012) and punishable under Section 16 (2) (b) of the same Act.”
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge preferred against them. Consequently, the prosecution counsel, Ekene Iheanacho, had asked for a trial date and also prayed the court to remand the defendants in prison custody.
The prosecution counsel had also urged the court to refuse the bail applications filed by the defence counsels on behalf of their clients. Justice Kuewumi had, therefore, adjourned to October 9, 2019 for ruling on the bail applications.
In his ruling, Justice Kuewumi had granted the defendants bail in the sum of N250m each on October 9, 2018 and adjourned till December 4, 2018 for commencement of trial. At the resumed hearing today, Justice Kuewumi announced that he had been transferred to the Sokoto State Division.
“I have been posted out of Lagos State to Sokoto State. I can’t open a matter that will not be concluded. So, we have to adjourn the matter”, the Judge had said.
However, in his submission, counsel to the prosecution, Iheanacho, told the court that the matter was adjourned to today for the prosecution to open its case. “My Lord, I am ready to proceed with the trial”, he further stated.
Counsel to the first defendant, K. T. Olawuni, as well as counsel to the third defendant, Omeoga Chukwu, said they were also ready to proceed with the trial. Also, counsel to the second and fourth defendants, Paul Erokoro, SAN, said he was ready to proceed with the trial.
Erokoro, however, said that the prosecuting counsel had just served him with an additional proof of evidence. “My Lord, I need time to go through it very well,” he pleaded. Justice Kuewumi thereafter, adjourned the matter to March 13 for mention.