With barely a week to the February 13 adjourned date for the criminal trial of the Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) candidate in the 2016 governorship election in Edo State, Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu, and four others bordering on a N700 million election-related fraud case, details have emerged that resort to technicalities and ‘pressures from Abuja’ may cause the case to drag.
Investigations revealed that some stakeholders in Edo political space are relying on their contacts in Abuja to seek out means to get Ize-Iyamu off the clutches of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), seeing that he has crossed ship to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and is being touted to vie for the party’s governorship ticket.
An impeccable source, who craved anonymity, said, “There are clandestine moves to clear Ize-Iyamu’s name with the EFCC. So, we are calling on the people to keep a close watch on the case ongoing in Benin. Some of the power brokers believe that his name is soiled with the fraud case hanging on his neck. So, they are pulling the strings in Abuja to see if they can get him some soft-landing.”
Recall that at the last adjourned date, counsel for Ize-Iyamu and 4 others had argued before the Federal High Court, Benin that the charge sheet should be amended to exclude the name of Chief Tony Anenih, who died before the commencement of the trial.
From information obtained from the court papers already filed, the name of Chief Tony Anenih is listed as an accused person “at large”.
Counsel for the EFCC had opposed the application for the amendment of the charge and this made the Court to adjourn the matter to 13 February 2020 to enable the parties to file their written arguments.
With this development, the proper arraignment and plea taking by the accused persons may be further delayed until the issue of the amendment of the charge sheet is resolved by a ruling of the Court.
The other accused persons in the case are the Chairman of the Edo State chapter of the PDP Chief Dan Orbih; a former deputy governor of Edo State, Mr Lucky Imasuen; a former member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Tony Azegbemi, and one Efe Anthony.
The EFCC accused the defendants of conspiring among themselves to commit the offence in March 2015. It alleged that they took possession and control of the funds without any contract award.
The accused persons were earlier arraigned before Hon. Justice P.I. Ajoku in 2018, before the latter was transferred out of the Benin Judicial Division as the presiding Judge. The case file is now before Hon. Justice M. G. Umar, the current presiding Judge of the Federal High Court, Benin.