PAUL USORO :The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has on Friday 4th December, 2020 tendered statement of account of the Attorney-General of Akwa Ibom State, Uwemedimo Nwoko, at the ongoing trial of the immediate past president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Paul Usoro (SAN)
Mr. Usoro is standing trial for receiving professional fees charged by his firm, Paul Usoro & Co from the Akwa Ibom State Government and Governor Udom Emmanuel which the EFCC alleges that he ought to have known “forms part of the proceeds of unlawful act”.
The case came up before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos for the continuation of cross examination of the PW2, Mr. Abdul-Rahama Arabu, an operative of the EFCC.
Nwoko’s statement of account confirms transfer of sum of N65m to his account on the 27th of August, 2016 by the law firm of Usoro which according to EFCC is a “kick back” while according to Usoro is a payment to three lawyers as part of the team retained for him by the Attorney General for the prosecution of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly election tribunal.
PW2 who tendered the statement of account was cross examined by Chief Offiong Offiong, SAN. The witness told the court that irrespective of the confirmation of the payment to the three lawyers, EFCC has reservation about the payment having not been made through their individual accounts
The witness further informed the court that they invited the Attorney-General of Akwa Ibom State but failed to show up. He said they did not invite the three lawyers for questioning because it was the Attorney-General that received the money
“the natural thing is to call the person that received the money – the Attorney General” the PW told court
Chief Offiong confronted the PW2 with two letters through which the Commission invited some staff which did not include the name of the Attorney General.
Offiong informed the court that though he was not officially invited, the Attorney-General went to the office of the EFCC but was not questioned by the Commission on the N1.1 billion the Ministry of Justice allegedly paid to the law firm of Usoro neither was he asked about the N65m he was paid by the law firm of Usoro and subsequently disbursed to three lawyers
According to the PW 2, the AG was not queried because as at the time the AG came to the office of the Commission, the need had not arisen for such questions
The statement of account was admitted in evidence and the matter was adjourned to January 20 and 21 for continuation of cross examination
TNL recalls that at the last adjourned date, December 3, the PW2 was cross examined on his evidence that money paid to the Attorney General of Akwa Ibom State was “kick back”.
He was confronted with the Defendant’s explanation that the payment was for lawyers who were on the election tribunal team but he responded that the Commission did not believe the explanation.
He also stated that there was no basis for believing the Defendant because the AG was invited but failed to attend.
SOURCE : THE NIGERIA LAWYER (TNL)