A Federal High Court, in Abuja, on Monday, ordered the immediate past Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Mr Emeka Mba, to report at the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Abuja, for an amended criminal charge sheet to be served on him and his co-defendants.
The trial judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole, gave the order following complaints by EFCC’s counsel, Salisu Majidadi ,over difficulties he experienced in effecting service of the amended charge sheet on the defendants.
Emeka Mba, Patrick Are, Basil Udotai and Babatunji Amu, who are 1st to 4th defendants respectively, are being prosecuted on a 15- count amended charge, bordering on money laundering and diversion of public funds.
Monday’s sitting was meant for the arraignment of the defendants, but was stalled due to the inability of the prosecuting counsel to serve the amended charge sheet dated and filed on October 14 and 21, 2016, on the defendants.
The prosecuting counsel, Salisu Majidadi ,had on Monday, informed the court of the difficulty he had been having in serving the defendants with the amended charge and consequently, requested for five days within which the defendants will be served with the amended charge.
However, the defendant lawyers led by Mr Sunday Ameh, in their contribution, said the issue of service or non-service of the amended charge, should not be an issue for the court’s consideration because, each of the defendants, for instance, the 1st and 4th defendant, had been served, while the 2nd and 3rd defendants, had obtained copies of the amended charge from the third defendant’s counsel.
Delivering a bench ruling on the application for an adjournment by the prosecuting counsel, Justice Kolawole held: “The defendants shall report in the complaint’s office on Wednesday, November 30, at 10.00 am and shall be served each with the amended charge.
“Let it be clearly stated that if the complainant was unable to get the amended charge served on November30,within the regular working hours of 10.00 am and 4.00pm, the defendants shall be released on administrative bail, which the EFCC had previously granted them and shall advise them as to a date within five days from today when the amended charge which the prosecution has informed the court of been available but that the copies are not with him in court.
“This case is hereby adjourned till December13, at 10 .00am, for the arraignment of the defendants on a 15 -count of the amended charge dated October14 and filed on October 21
“The defendants shall return to court for their arraignment and the hearing of their bail applications,” hesaid.
The amended charge read in part: “That you Emeka Mba (while being the Director-General of the National Broadcasting Commission), Patrick Are (while being the Director of Finance and Account of the National Broadcasting Commission), Basil Udotai (trading in the name and style of Technology Advisors) and Babatunji Amure (trading in the name and style of Divine Partners) on or about the 15th day of August, 2015 in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court conspired amongst yourselves to commit an illegal act to wit: laundering the sum of N2, 899, 723, 500.00 (two billion eight hundred and ninety-nine million, seven hundred and three thousand, five hundred naira) and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act,” among others.
It will be recalled that the anti-graft body had recently arrested the ex-NBC DG over an alleged N15 billion fraud.