BENIN CITY – With accused persons tried for similar cases convicted by the courts, tension is at fever pitch level in the camp of the former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Pastor Osagie Ize-Iyamu and four others being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for a N700m election-related fraud case, as they return to the Federal High Court, Benin on Monday, March 2, for the hearing of the case before Justice M. G. Umar.
The accused persons are apprehensive over the matter, as they fear their fate may not be different from that of the former PDP National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, who is to serve seven years in prison, impeccable sources close to the Edo State chapter of the PDP, said at the weekend.
Though there have been concerted efforts by Pastor Ize-Iyamu to thwart the case in connivance with forces in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, the EFCC has insisted on proceeding with the trial with renewed zeal.
“There is deafening silence and fever pitch apprehension in the Edo State Chapter of the PDP after the judgement on Olisa Metuh some weeks ago. Everybody is in panic mode. You know that the case is very similar. I bet you, all eyes are on this case with what transpired in Metuh’s trial.
“We are not so sure that something significant would come out of it that would be for the benefit of the accused persons. So, we are keeping our fingers crossed. But we are still exploring the options in Abuja. To be sincere, it is not looking really good here,” the source said.
The accused persons had on February 13, 2020, pleaded for a six-month adjournment of the case but Justice M. G. Umar declined the prayer, threatening to revoke their bail condition if they attempted to continue to delay the trial with frivolous requests.
Pastor Ize-Iyamu and four other top-ranking members of the PDP were re-arraigned on an eight-count charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering to the tune of N700 million, an offence contrary to section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011 as amended which is punishable under section 15(3) of the same Act.
Other defendants in the case include former Deputy Governor of Edo State, Lucky Imasuen; PDP chairman in Edo State, Chief Dan Orbih; Tony Aziegbemi and Efe Erimuoghae Anthony.
The EFCC accused the defendants of conspiring among themselves to commit the offence in March, 2015, alleging that they took possession and control of the funds without any contract award from former Minister of Petroleum, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke.
The anti-graft agency also said the defendants allegedly made huge cash payments of various amounts to several people without going through a financial institution.