The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Gombe Zonal office on Monday, January 22, 2018 arraigned the trio of Sarah Ochekpe, Evan Leo Sunday Jitong and Raymond Dabo before Justice H. M. Kurya of the Federal High Court ,Jos, Plateau State, on two-count charge bordering on money laundering.
While Ochekpe was a former Minister of Water Resources during the tenure of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Evan and Raymond were the state deputy director for Goodluck/Sambo 2015 election campaign and former Acting Chairman of PDP, Plateau State respectively.
They were alleged to have received the sum of N450million out of N23billion brought to Fidelity Bank Plc through cash and wire transfer by some oil companies and former Petroleum Resources Minister, Diezani Alison Madueke, to influence electorates and the outcome of 2015 Presidential Election.
Investigations showed that after receiving the money in their custody, the headquarters of Fidelity Bank Plc used its state branches to channel the distribution of the election loot through CBN to individual states of the Federation.
Specifically on the March 26, 2015, the sum of N450million were withdrawn from CBN by Fidelity Bank Plc Jos main branch and it was handed over to the defendants in cash after they signed for collection.
Though the defendants claimed that they handed over the money to late Senator Gyang Pwajok, the Plateau State PDP Governorship candidate in 2015, but they failed to provide any evidence to support their claim.
Count one of the charge reads:
“That you, SARAH RINGIM OCHEKPE, EVAN LEO SUNDAY JITONG, RAYMOND DABO and MRS DIEZANI ALISON MADUEKE ( NOW AT LARGE) sometimes in March, 2015 at Jos, Plateau state of Nigeria within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, without going through the Financial Institution, did conspire amongst yourselves to accept cash payment of the sum of Four Hundred and Fifty Million Naira (N450,000,000.00) from MRS. DIEZANI ALISON MADUEKE through Fidelity Bank Plc which sum exceeded the amount authorised by Law and thereby committed an offence contrary to the provisions of Section 18 (a), Section 16 (1) (d) of the Money Laundering (prohibition) Act 2012 (as amended) and Punishable under Section 16 (2) (b) of the same Act.
The defendants pleaded not guilty to the charge.
In view of that, the prosecution counsel A. M. Muntaka asked a date for trial and also urged the court to consider the provision of Section 396 (3) of the administration of Criminal justice Act, 2015 to give an acceleration hearing by adhering to day-to-day trial.
The defence counsel, S. G. Odeh, applied for bail of his clients which was granted by the court on self recognition; but with the caveat that the bail bond be countersigned by the defence counsel.
The case has been adjourned to 13th and 14th February, 2018 for trial.