President of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Mr Paul Usoro, says he is innocent of the N1.4 billion money laundering charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Mr Usoro stated this while fielding questions from reporters on Sunday after the NBA National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting in Abuja.
He said, “I haven’t been served. I expect I will be served but the facts as I know it, I am completely innocent and the facts as I know it, I presented it in the address that was adopted by NEC.”
“Assuming that there was something that was done; except the association itself makes a complaint to the EFCC or any of the other criminal investigating agencies, then they don’t have any basis having to come in into what we are doing,” Usoro added.
“We are an association of lawyers; we have a way of regulating ourselves.”
The NBA President, however, said he would appear in court.
He further called for a legislation that would prohibit media trial of persons in court.
According to him, the situation if not addressed will lead to maligning of character whether or not one is innocent or guilty of the offence he is charged with.
The EFCC had filed 10 counts of fraudulent conversion of N1.4bn against the NBA President before Justice Muslim Hassan of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos.
In the first count, the EFCC alleged that Mr Usoro and some persons conspired in 2015 to convert the sum of N1.4bn property of the Akwa Ibom State Government which they ought to have known formed part of the proceeds of crime.
The others accused by the anti-graft agency are Governor Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom State (who currently enjoys constitutional immunity against criminal prosecution), as well as the state’s Commissioner for Finance, Nsikan Nkan; the Accountant-General, Mfon Udomah; the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice; Uwemedimo Nwoko; and Margaret Ukpe.
The EFCC counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, who signed the charge sheet said the offences were contrary to Section 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011.
Five senior advocates – Gboyega Awomolo, Tayo Oyetibo, Theophilus Oyesanya, Onyechi Ikpeazu, and Damian Dodo, have been listed as witnesses along with some bank representatives to give evidence in the matter.
The commission said it would arraign Mr Usoro on Monday, December 10.