Court sends two REA officials to prison for N1.85bn fraud

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered the remand of two staff members of the Account and Finance Department of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) in Kuje Correctional Centre for alleged N1.853 billion fraud.

Presiding judge Justice Emeka Nwite, on Thursday, June 13, 2024, ordered the remand of the two REA officials, Umar Musa Laraye and Emmanuel Titus Pada, pending their bail plea after they were arraigned on separate four-count charges.

Justice Nwite had, on June 6, issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Laraye, Pada, and Henrientta Onomen Okojie for failure to appear in court for their arraignment.

The judge gave the order after counsel for the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Osuobeni Akponimisingha, moved an oral application to the effect.

The judge then adjourned the matter until today for ICPC to produce Laraye and Pada in court, while Okojie’s case was fixed for Friday, June 14.

The ICPC had preferred separate four-count charges against the REA officials over allegations of misappropriation of public funds meant for the provision of electricity to rural communities across the country.

In the first charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/204/24, the anti-corruption agency sued Pada as sole defendant.

The commission sued Karaye in the second charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/202/24, while Okojie was equally sued in the charge number: FHC/ABJ/CR/203/24.

When the cases involving Laraye and Pada were called, Akponimisingha informed the court that the matters were scheduled for them to take their plea.

The ICPC lawyer applied that the June 6 bench warrant be vacated against them since the defendants were in court and Justice Nwite granted the request.

After the separate four-count charges were read to them, they pleaded not guilty and Akponimisingha applied for a trial date.

But Idoko Alhassan, who appeared for the two defendants, told the court when the first matter involving Laraye was heard that he had already filed a bail application on behalf of his client dated June 11.

Alhassan said the application was duly served on the prosecution on Tuesday.

Responding, Akponimisingha said he had yet to receive the copy of the bail application.

The judge equally said the prosecution was still within time to respond to the application.

Justice Nwite, who adjourned the matter until June 20 for hearing of the bail application, ordered Laraye and Pada to be remanded in Kuje Correctional Centre.

He, therefore, fixed their trial on July 10.

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