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N21.7mn fraud: Court adjourns case against former NMA Chairman

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A Benin City High Court, Edo State, has adjourned a N21.7 million fraud case preferred against a former Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), Edo State Chapter, Dr. Emmanuel Ighodaro and two others, till 21 November, this year.

The adjournment followed an application by the defence counsel, Ighodaho Imhamdegbelo (SAN), requesting the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), to return the accused evidences in its custody during investigations.

Other accused persons in the case are Dr. Oseremen Gabriel Ogbebor and Dr. Anthony Owolabi, who were also executive members of the association between 2013 and 2014.

The EFCC had on 31 January, arraigned five former executive members of the NMA for alleged conspiracy to commit felony, fraudulent false accounting and stealing of N21.7 million, belonging to the Edo State chapter of the NMA.

The accused medical doctors are facing a 21-count charge bordering on fraud.

The anti graft agency said the defendants conspired to make a false entry in the audit report for the accounting year ended August 1st, 2013 and July 31, 2014 of the association.

It said the offences were punishable under section 516, section 435(2)C), section 435(2)b), section 390(7) and section 390(9) of the criminal code.

Two of the accused persons, Quincy Atoghengbe and Raymond Ogieva, however on July 10, had the charges against them dismissed by the court on the ground that the proof of evidence does not disclose a prima facie case against them requiring them to stand trial before the court.

The presiding Judge, Justice Ikponmwonba, however dismissed the applications of Emmnauel Ighodaro, Anthony Owolabi and Oseremen Gabriel Ogbebor on the ground that there is proof of evidence of prima facie linking them with the offences in which they were charged.

When the case came up for hearing on Tuesday, the defence counsel, Ighodaho Imhamdegbelo (SAN), filed applications requesting the EFCC to return the accused evidences in its custody during investigations.

Imhamdegbelo, opined that the evidences was to enable defendants prepare their defences adequately.

He also urged the Court to compel the anti-graft agency to receive court service at its Benin-City office, rather than directing bailiffs to its Ibadan office.

The prosecuting counsel, Ben Ubi, who raised objection to the defense counsel’s request, urged the Court to entertain the applications and thereafter proceed to hearing of the case.

The presiding Judge, Justice Efe Ikponmwonba, adjourned the case till 21 November.

Meanwhile, it has been reliably gathered that the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA), had earlier suspended the whistleblowers (names withheld) from the association for exposing the fraud to the EFCC.

The association also appointed two of the accused persons who are currently on trial, into its National Executive Committee in 2016.