ON Monday, a former Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC, Nicholas Mutu, was arraigned before the Federal High Court, Abuja on an 11-count charge bordering on fraud and abuse of office.
Airworld Technologies Ltd, Oyien Homes Ltd and Blessing Mutu, alleged to be at large, were also charged alongside the lawmaker on the same count charge.
Mutu, a member of the House of Representatives from Bomadi/Patani constituency of Bayelsa state and previously served as House committee Chairman of the NDDC from 2009 to 2019 is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for his involvement in fraud while performing his oversight functions.
Currently serving his sixth term in the House of Representatives, the lawmaker has represented his constituency at the Federal House since 1999 and holds the title of being the oldest parliamentarian in the green chambers.
At the hearing, the presiding judge Justice Giwa Ogunbanjo asked that the charges be read to the defendants.
“That you, Nicholas Mutu Ebomo whilst being the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on the Niger Delta Development Commission, between August 2014 and August 2016 in Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did procure Airworld Technologies Ltd to conceal of the sum of N320,159,689.63 to be paid by Starline Consultancy Services Ltd.
“When you reasonably ought to have known that the said sum of N320,159,689.63 formed part of proceeds of corruption, gratification and fraudulent acquisition of property and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 18(c) (d) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2011 as amended by Act No. 1 of (2012) and punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act,” one of the charges reads.
Mutu pleaded “not guilty” to the charges read to him.
Prosecuting counsel, Ekele Iheanacho, requested for a trial date and prayed the court to remand him in prison without bail.
“My lord we cannot take the risk we took in 2018 when we granted him bail, he was released in the name of one Anthony John Ikpoyi, SAN. From that day till date, the defendant has dishonoured the terms and conditions of bail, and never showed up at EFCC office. So many efforts were made including arresting the sureties, yet he refused to show up,” he said.
Defence counsel, P. I. N. Nikwueto, SAN to Mutu told the court that he was ready for the trial, and applied for the bail of his client.
In his ruling on the bail application, Justice Ogunbanjo granted temporary freedom to Mutu stating that he took into judicial cognisance the administrative bail which the EFCC had earlier granted to the lawmaker.
He adjourned the case and fixed the following dates for trial specifically February 25, March 4 – 5, April 22 – 28, and May 5 – 6.