THREE years after the charge was filed, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has arraigned a former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah, her ex-aide, Gloria Odita and seven others over alleged N5 billion naira fraud.
They were arraigned before an Abuja Federal High Court presided by Inyang Ekwo on Friday, July 21, for money laundering, conspiracy, and maintaining anonymous bank accounts.
The 25-count charge was read to them by an official of the court. Each defendant entered a not-guilty plea.
Other defendants include Chukwuma Irene Chinyere, Nwosu Emmanuel Nnamdi, Global Offshore and Marine Ltd, Tip Top Global Resources Ltd, Crystal Television Ltd, China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) Nigeria Ltd and Sobora International Ltd.
The EFCC alleged that Oduah misused government funds worth an estimated N5 billion while serving as a minister.
The charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/316/2020 was first filed in 2020.
The court mandated that the prosecution of Oduah and others accused of laundering nearly N5 billion be handled by the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
Ekwo gave the order after Oduah and the other defendants were arraigned before him by the EFCC.
The judge claimed that the controversy surrounding the case’s prosecution played a role in his decision to assign the case to the AGF.
To ensure thorough prosecution of the accused, he instructed the EFCC to transmit the case file to the AGF’s office.
The case was postponed until October 17 for trial.
Between 2021 and 2023, the case was repeatedly set for arraignment, but it was postponed for several reasons.
In February 2014, former President Goodluck Jonathan sacked Oduah as minister of aviation, alongside three other members of his cabinet.
Oduah’s sack did not come as a surprise as her approval for the purchase of two bullet-proof cars for N255 mi caused public outrage in the country, with many Nigerians calling for her removal and prosecution.
The House of Representatives approved the recommendation by its aviation committee asking for her removal following the controversial purchase of two armoured vehicles at an inflated N255 million.
Oduah had maintained she did nothing wrong as funding for the cars, made available by First Bank, was arranged to comply with her spending limit and relevant laws.
She said the purchase was not done in her name.
The minister was also accused of forging her certificates.
Investigations by an online newspaper, Premium Times, broke the scandal.