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N1.9bn Fraud: Court Orders Three Rural Electrification Agency Officials’ Arrest

Justice Emeka Nwite of the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Thursday, issued a warrant for the arrest of three officials of the Nigeria Rural Electrification Agency, who are defendants in four separate criminal charges, bordering on alleged N1.85bn fraud.

The judge ruled that the officials, identified as Emmanuel Titus, Umar Karaye and Henrietta Okojie, should be arrested for failing to appear in court on Thursday for their scheduled arraignment.

The trio were charged before the court, alongside their colleague, Usman Kwakwa.

Though the ICPC filed separate charges against them, the four defendants were scheduled to be arraigned before Justice Nwite on Thursday but only Kwakwa showed up in court.

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While Kwakwa was charged with N1.853bn fraud; Karaye was accused of N165m; Okoje, N342m fraud and Titus, N261m fraud.

While Kwakwa was arraigned, pleaded not guilty and was granted N50m bail by Justice Nwite, the three other defendants did not show up, a situation that made the ICPC prosecution counsel, Osuobeni Akponimisingha, to apply for a bench warrant against them.

Akponimisingha told the judge that Titus, Karaye and Okojie were served with copies of the charges and duly informed of their arraignment scheduled for Thursday, June 6, but chose to stay away “by their own volition”.

While noting that the defendants were released on administrative bail by the ICPC, the prosecution prayed the court to issue a bench warrant for their arrests to be brought to court for arraignment.

Akponimisingha anchored his prayer on sections 114, 124 and 184 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.

Justice Nwite, in a short ruling, granted the prayer.

“The defendants decided not to come to court. I am convinced that the defendants deliberately absented themselves from court,” the judge held.

Justice Nwite adjourned Titus and Karaye’s arraignment till June 13 and Okojie’s till June 14.

In the charges, the EFCC accused Titus of defrauding the REA to the tune of N261m.

The ICPC said he received the funds in different tranches under the “false pretence of project supervision” in violation of the Advance Fraud and Other Related Offences Act of 2006.

According to the proof of evidence attached to the charges, the monies were “illegally paid out to the defendants from the Government Integrated Financial Management System without requisite approvals.”

Karaye, on his part, was accused of N165m fraud. The anti-graft agency alleged that he moved the funds out of government coffers through the GIFMIS payment platform being payment for “project supervision” in March 2023.

As for Okojie, the ICPC alleged that he cornered N342m “under the guise of project supervision” in breach of the Advance Fraud and Other Related Offences Act of 2006.

 

Credit: Punch

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