Gbenga Makanjuola

Akin Kuponiyi

The scheduled trial of Mr. Gbenga Makanjuola, a Deputy Chief of Staff to the Senate President, Bukonla Saraki, and two others over alleged N3.5 billion Paris Clubs Loan, before a Federal High Court, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria was on Thursday stalled due to the transfer of the trial judge, Justice Bab Kuewumi to Sokoto Division of the court.

At the resumed trial of Makanjuola alongside Obiora Amobi, Kolawole Shitu and a company allegedly to have been used as conduit pipe in the said loan, Melrose General Services Limited, Justice Kuewumi told the parties that he was not ready to commence the trial as he has been transfered to the Sokoto division of the court.

The judge, therefore, urged the parties to take a new date for the incoming judge to handle the matter.

“The court is not ready on the ground that I have been transferred to Sokoto and I would not like to start what I cannot conclude. We have to adjourn the matter for incoming judge”, Justice Kuewumi said.

Following the judge’s pronouncement, both the prosecution and the defence team agreed on March 13, for commencement of trial.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) lawyer, Mr. Ekene Iheanacho and defence teams which comprised K. T. Alowomi, Mr. Paul Erokoro (SAN) and Omeoga Chukwu, informed the court of their readiness to go on with the trial.

Though, Mr. Erokoro (SAN) told the court that he had just been served with additional prove-of-evidence, and that the court was ready to go on with the trial.

EFCC had on October 7, arraigned the defendants before the court on charges bordering on conspiracy, payment of some monies without going through financial institutions.

The three defendants, a limited liability company, Melrose General Services Limited, and one Robert Chidozie Mbonu (now at large), had sometimes in December 2016, alleged to have conspired among themselves to disguise the origin of the sum of N3.5 billion, which was paid into Melrose General Services Limited account with Access Bank Plc.

The third defendant, Obiora Amobi, who is the operation manager of Melrose General Services between December 15 and 17, 2016, made a cash payment of N300 million to Robert Mbonu (now at large.) from the said N3.5 billion, without going through financial institution.

It was also alleged that Saraki’s Deputy Chief of Staff, Makanjuola, and the Cashier in the Senate President’s office, Shittu, had in December 2016, made cash payment of a total of $1.5 million USD, of $500, 000, in three tranches, between themselves without going through a financial institution.

The offences, according to the EFCC, were contrary to section 18, 15(2)(d), 15(2)(b) 1(a) and 16(2)(b) of Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011, and punishable under Sections 15(3) and 16 (2)(b) of the same act.

All the defendants pleaded not guilty to all the counts of the charge and were admitted to bail in the sum of N250 million each with two sureties in like sum.