Justice P.I, Ajaku of the Federal High Court sitting in Benin City, Edo State, on Thursday ordered that the duo of Uluocha Obi Brown, an administrative secretary of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Delta State, and Percy Okojie, a renowned legal practitioner and former president of Rotary Club, Benin City, be remanded in prison custody, following their arraignment before her by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on an 8-count amended charge bordering on conspiracy and money laundering to the tune of one hundred and eleven million, five hundred thousand naira (N111, 500, 000) only.
The defendants were docked for allegedly collecting the sum as a bribe during the weeks leading to the 2015 presidential election. They are among the over 100 INEC officials that allegedly collected part of the $115million (N23bn) disbursed by a former minister of petroleum resources, Diezani Alison- Madueke, during the countdown to the 2015 presidential election.
Brown was arrested sometime in 2016, following an intelligence received by the EFCC on the activities of some INEC staff who allegedly connived with the West African Network of Election Observers (WANEO) , a non- governmental organisation (NGO), to defraud the federal government of huge sums of money running into billions of naira during the 2015 polls.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges when they were read to them.
In view of their pleas, prosecution counsel Sadiq Hussaini asked the court for a trial date and pleaded that the defendants be remanded in prison custody. However, counsel to the first defendant, Chief F. O. Orbir, SAN, told the court that he had filed a bail application for his client. He said the alleged offences were bailable and that the defendant was earlier placed on administrative bail by the prosecution, and urged the court to grant his prayers. Counsel to the second defendant, K. O. Obamogie, made same prayers. Hussaini opposed their prayers, submitting that he needed time to respond.
In her ruling, Justice Ajaku turned down the defendant’s application for bail, stressing that the prosecution has a right to respond. She also adjourned the matter to 17 June, 2017, for argument on bail applications; 30 June, 2017 , for trial; and ordered the defendants to be remanded in prison custody pending the determination of their bail applications.
— By Wilson Uwujaren, head, media & publicity, EFCC