A former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Maurice Iwu, has urged a federal court in Lagos to transfer his N1.2 billion alleged fraud case to Abuja due to ‘old age’.
Ahmed Raji, counsel to Mr Iwu, on Thursday told Justice Nicholas Oweibo of the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court that at the age of 70, ”his client was too old to be coming from Abuja to Lagos to stand trial”.
Mr Raji noted that the transactions leading to the charges against Mr Iwu took place in Abuja.
“My Lord, this defendant is over 70 years of age and he always travels down to Lagos and books a hotel whenever this matter comes up. It will amount to great agony for him to continue with this trial in Lagos,” the lawyer said.
But counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo, opposed the request saying that the case was investigated in Lagos and the witnesses to be called are in Lagos and Ibadan.
Citing Section 98 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, Mr Oyedepo also argued that only the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, and not Justice Oweibo, has the power to direct the transfer of Mr Iwu’s case to Abuja.
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After listening to arguments by the two sides, the judge adjourned till March 6 for the ruling.
The EFCC in October last year re-arraigned Mr Iwu on four counts of laundering N1.2 billion in the build-up to the 2015 general elections.
According to the EFCC, Mr Iwu, a professor, between December 2014 and March 2015, aided the concealment of the fund in the account of Bioresources Institute of Nigeria Limited with number 1018603119, domiciled in the United Bank for Africa.
The EFCC said Mr Iwu ought to have known that the N1.2 billion formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.
The prosecution said 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.
Mr Iwu pleaded not guilty to the charges.