By Mike Ojo, Lagos
A former Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Maurice Iwu, has prayed for the transfer of his N1.23bn fraud case from Lagos to Abuja, based on old age.
His lawyer, Mr Ahmed Raji (SAN), told Justice Nicholas Oweibo on Thursday that at the age of 70 years, his client was too old to be coming from Abuja to the Federal High Court in Lagos to stand trial.
Besides, Raji said the transactions leading to the charges against Iwu took place in Abuja.
The SaAN said, “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. ”
But the prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the judge not to transfer the case to Abuja on the basis 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, Oyedepo also argued that only the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, rather than Justice Oweibo, had the power tp direct the transfer of Iwu’s case to Abuja.
After listening to arguments by the two sides, Justice Oweibo adjourned till March 6 for ruling.
The EFCC had October last year arraigned Iwu on four counts, wherein he was accused of laundering N1.23bn in the build-up to the 2015 general elections, in which Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) defeated then-incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.
According to the EFCC, Iwu, between December 2014 and March 27, 2015, aided the concealment of N1.23bn in the account of Bioresources Institute of Nigeria Limited with number 1018603119, domiciled in the United Bank for Africa.
The EFCC said Iwu ought to have reasonably known that the N1.23bn formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful act, to wit: fraud.
The prosecution told the court that 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.
But Iwu pleaded not guilty to the charges.