Judge chides EFCC over trial of clearing agent

Miffed at what she considered as shoddy work by the anti-graft agency, Justice Lateefat Okunnu of the Lagos High Court yesterday advised the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to do a “thorough” study of petitions filed by complainants before proceeding to court.
Okunnu gave the advice while delivering judgment in a suit instituted by the EFCC against a clearing agent, Mr. Caleb Onwudinjo.
The judge discharged Onwudinjo, 50, of the six count-charge of allegedly obtaining money by false pretence preferred against him by the EFCC.
She described Onwudinjo’s prosecution as “a waste of tax payers money,” adding that he ought to be compensated for his travails.

Okunnu said that EFCC failed to thoroughly investigate the claim by the petitioner, Mrs. Ifeoma Okereke, before charging the matter to court.
The EFCC had on December 16, 2009, charged Onwudinjo for allegedly obtaining N2.7 million from Okereke under the guise of helping her pay for a container.
The container, which was to be auctioned by the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) at the Ikorodu Lighter Terminal (ILT), Ikorodu, Lagos, contained a used Honda Accord car and other items.
Okereke, an employee of Bank PHB Plc (now Keystone Bank), had claimed that the accused swindled her by making a false claim that she would be given the container.

However, Onwudinjo had testified that the money she paid was collected by Customs officers as “underhand” payments to give her an edge over other bidders.
He had maintained that he allegedly gave N2.6 million to a retired officer, Pius Abayomi, who facilitated the inspection of nine containers by the complainant to give her an edge in the bid.
The accused had claimed that the transaction failed, following the transfer of some of the officers and Okereke started demanding for a refund of her money.
Onwudinjo had also debunked the claim by the complainant that she gave him N5 million, insisting that only N2.7 million was paid into his Bank PHB account.
In her judgment, Okunnu said that Okereke’s testimony was inconsistent, full of half-truths and blatant lies, aimed at misleading the court.

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