Court Dismisses Obiano's Challenge to N4bn Theft Charges, Allows Medical Trip

Former Anambra Governor Willie Obiano faces trial for alleged N4bn theft as court dismisses his challenge to EFCC's powers. The high-profile case could have significant political ramifications in the state.

Nasiru Eneji Abdulrasheed
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Court Dismisses Obiano's Challenge to N4bn Theft Charges, Allows Medical Trip

Court Dismisses Obiano's Challenge to N4bn Theft Charges, Allows Medical Trip

A Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed an application by former Anambra State Governor Willie Obiano challenging the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to prosecute him on charges of alleged N4 billion theft. Justice Inyang Ekwo ruled that the EFCC Act has not been declared unconstitutional and that the court cannot stop the implementation of the act that founded the anti-graft agency.

Obiano, who was arraigned on January 24, faces nine counts related to the alleged misappropriation of Anambra State security funds amounting to N4 billion during his tenure as governor from 2014 to 2022. The EFCC is investigating the financial affairs of the state under Obiano's governorship, including the aspect of laundering funds from the Security Vote Account.

In his ruling, Justice Ekwo deemed Obiano's objection baseless and dismissed it, stating that the Federal High Court had jurisdiction to handle the case since the security votes in question were paid from the Federation Account, making it a constitutional issue. The judge also rejected Obiano's argument that no prima facie case had been established against him and that the EFCC lacked the power to prosecute him.

Why this matters: The outcome of this high-profile corruption case could have significant political ramifications, particularly in Anambra State, where Obiano's tenure was marked by both infrastructural development and accusations of corruption. The trial will test the EFCC's ability to hold public officials accountable for alleged misappropriation of funds and set a precedent for similar cases in the future.

However, the court granted Obiano's request for the release of his passport to enable him to embark on a medical trip abroad. Justice Ekwo varied the bail conditions, ordering Obiano to return his passport upon his return and sign an undertaking to return to the country after the treatment. The EFCC did not oppose the application but expressed reservations about the 60-day duration of the treatment.

The trial is now scheduled to commence on June 24-27, 2024. Obiano maintains his innocence, and the trial process will allow him to present his defense and challenge the EFCC's evidence. As Justice Ekwo stated, "The court cannot preempt the prosecution's case. The defendant cannot stop the EFCC from implementing the Act that founded it as an anti-graft agency."

Key Takeaways

  • Court dismisses Obiano's challenge to EFCC's power to prosecute him for alleged N4bn theft.
  • Obiano faces 9 counts related to misappropriation of Anambra security funds during his tenure.
  • Court rejects Obiano's arguments, says EFCC has jurisdiction as funds were from Federation Account.
  • Court grants Obiano's request to travel abroad for medical treatment, trial set for June 2024.
  • Outcome of this high-profile case could have significant political ramifications in Anambra State.