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Ex-Head of Service Oronsaye pleads not guilty to charges

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The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC arraigned former Head of Service, HoS, of the Federation, Stephen Oronsaye, before Justice Olasumbo Goodluck of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, High Court, sitting in Maitama, Abuja, on a two-count charge bordering on criminal breach of trust.

Oronsaye, who is also a former Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Financial Action Task Force, FATF in 2013, is alleged to have fraudulently obtained N190 million being part of N240 million grant, which the committee received from the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and converted same to personal use.

One of the counts reads: “That you Stephen Oronsaye a.k.a. Mr Steve Oronsaye on or about 12th June, 2013 at Abuja within the jurisdiction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory whilst being the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Financial Action Task Force and in such capacity entrusted with certain property to wit: the sum of N90,000,000 committed Breach of Trust in respect of the said sum by converting it to your personal use through the investment of the said sum of N90,000,000 in Access Bank Plc’s Bankers Acceptance for a tenor of 90 days at 9.0% interest rate in violation of the extant financial regulations.”

The other reads: “That you Stephen Oronsaye a.k.a. Mr Steve Oronsaye on or about 30th December, 2014 at Abuja within the jurisdiction of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory whilst being the Chairman of the Presidential Committee on Financial Action Task Force and in such capacity entrusted with certain property to wit: the sum of N100,000,000 committed Breach of Trust in respect of the said sum by converting it to your personal use through the investment of the said sum of N90,000,000 in Access Bank Plc’s Bankers Acceptance for a tenor of 90 days at 12.0% interest rate each in violation of the extant financial regulations.”

He pleaded not guilty to the charges when they were read to him.

In view of his plea, prosecuting counsel, Offem Uket, urged the court to give a date for trial to commence while Oronsaye be remanded in prison custody.

The motion was, however, opposed by the lead counsel for the defence, Joe Agi, SAN, who urged the court to commence trial being a criminal case.

Justice Goodluck, thereafter, stood the case down for about one hour to enable the EFCC to open its case.

At the resumed hearing, the prosecution presented its first witness, Ngunan Kakwagh, an operative with the EFCC.

Kakwagh, while being led in evidence by Uket, gave a detailed account of how investigations into the activities of the committee, revealed that Oronsaye, opened an account with Access Bank Plc in the name of the committee, into which he received N190million being part of the grant from the CBN and converted it to personal use by investing the said sum in various fixed deposits.

“Through an inquiry at the Office of the Accountant General of the Federation, we discovered that the account opening was not authorised,” Kakwagh said.

Agi, thereafter, prayed the court to grant him permission to move his bail application and sought for an adjournment for him to cross-examine the witness.

While moving the application, Agi, urged the court to grant Oronsaye bail on self-recognition arguing that: “the defendant being a former Head of Service of the Federation does not have any intention to jump bail”.

Oronsaye, according to Agi, already had his international passport in the custody of the Federal High Court, Abuja, where he is being prosecuted by the EFCC on a N2 billion fraud.

Opposing the bail application, however, Uket, urged the court to consider the gravity of the offence, which according to him is punishable with 14 years’ imprisonment. 

He further argued that the decision of the Federal High Court on the other matter was not binding in the case.

Justice Goodluck, thereafter, granted Oronsaye bail in the sum of N10 million and two sureties in the sum of N5 million each, both of which must be residents of Abuja. 

The sureties, according to the trial judge, must be at the level of directors in the civil service or government establishments, either serving or retired.

While adjourning to March 24, April 13 and 14, 2016 for continuation of trial, the trial judge ordered that Oronsaye’s international passport be brought to her court in the event that the Federal High Court case was concluded earlier than the one before her.

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