Trial of ex-Enugu Governor Stalls as Counsel Says Accused Medically Unfit

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Tuesday again adjourned the trial of former Enugu State Governor, Chimaroke Nnamani, on charges of money laundering.

Nnamani and seven others are facing a 105-count charge bordering on money laundering, which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) brought against them.

The other accused persons are Sunday Anyaogu; Rainbownet (Nig) Ltd, Hillgate (Nig) Ltd, Cosmos Fm, Capital City Automobile (Nig) Ltd, Renaissance University Teaching Hospital and Mea Mater Elizabeth High School.

At the resumed hearing of the case, counsel representing Nnamani, Mr Oluyele Deleano (SAN), prayed the court for another adjournment based on ill health of the accused person.

He informed the court that his client was still unfit to go through the rigours of trial, due to the fact that he had just undergone a Quadriple by-pass (open heart surgery).

Delano said that the surgery had recently caused him chronic chest pain.

He told the court that although there was relative success with regards to the surgery, the accused had to embark on a slow and tideous recovery process and had suffered setbacks in his health.

The counsel said that recent medical analysis revealed that his chronic chest pain might be as a result of his body’s non tolerance to the “pace maker” which had been installed in his heart.

Deleano said that it was important for his client to be in good health to be able to vigorously defend the criminal allegations preferred against him.

He, therefore, urged the court to adjourn the matter to a future date bearing in mind the need for justice to be seen by all as done.

According to him, there is also the need to ensure that the accused is not prejudiced in his ability to defend the suit.

In response, the prosecutor, Mr Kevin Uzozie, raised a sole issue for determination: whether the accused was capable of understanding court proceedings in spite of his illness.

He enjoined the court to exercise its discretion in determining whether or not to grant an adjournment.

“The court must also be mindful of the fact that the case has lingered since 2007,” Uzozie said.

Justice Mohammed Yunusa, in a short ruling, adjourned the case to Nov. 3 for trial.

The judge held that ill health was an important issue in any criminal trial, especially where the organ affected was the heart.

He held that a physical assessment of the accused revealed that he was unfit to stand trial and that the law was not intended to cause more harm to an accused.

Yunusa, therefore, adjourned the case to afford the accused ample time to recover and be in a state of health to stand trial.

The accused persons were re-arraigned before Yunusa on March 7, 2013, following the transfer of the previous judge, Justice Charles Archibong.

They had pleaded not guilty to the charge, while Yunusa had allowed them to continue on the earlier bail granted by Archibong.

On May 16, Yunusa granted leave to the accused to travel overseas for medical attention.

On May 28, the judge had also granted an application by the defence, seeking extension of time for the accused to conclude his medical treatment abroad.

In the charge, the accused persons are alleged to have laundered various sums of money to the tune of N5 billion, and lodged same in a secret account.

Nnamani is also alleged to have conspired with other accused persons to launder various statutory allocations of some local government areas of Enugu State.

The local governments are: Aninri, Enugu South, Agwu, Igbo Etiti and Isi Uzor.

He is also alleged to have stolen N1.4 billion from the Excess Crude Oil Funds allocated to local governments in the state.

The accused is alleged to have, through the help of one Chinero Nwigwe, who is now at large, fraudulently transferred millions of dollars of Enugu State funds to his personal accounts in the U.S.

The offences were allegedly committed while Nnamani was Governor of Enugu State between 1999 and 2007.

According to the prosecution, the offences contravene the provisions of the Money Laundering (prohibition) Act, 2004.

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