A file photo of a court gavel.
The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has fixed November 9, 2021, for the re-arraignment of two lawyers charged with alleged manipulation of the 2018 Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Election which produced Mr Paul Usoro (SAN) as the President of the Bar.
The two lawyers to be re-arraigned are: Sarah Ajibola and John Demide.
In December 10, 2020, the two lawyers were arraigned before Justice Chuka Obiozor, on a 14-count charge of conspiracy and cybercrime-related offences.
They pleaded not guilty.
Justice Obiozor has subsequently been transferred to another division of the court and this necessitates a rearrangement before another judge of the court.
At the resumed hearing of the charge against the two lawyers today before Justice Tijjani Ringim, there was no legal representation for the prosecuting agency, the EFCC.
The two defendants were however represented.
Owing to the absence of the prosecuting team coupled with the fact that the matter is coming up before the court for the first time, Justice Ringim, adjourned the matter till November 9, for the re-arraignment of the two lawyers.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) claimed that Ajibola and Demide manipulated the election in favour of the immediate past President, Mr Paul Usoro SAN, who was elected the 29th NBA President in 2018.
Mr Usoro polled 4,509 votes to defeat his other contenders, Okafor Obi, and Ernest Ojukwu, who got 4,423 as well as 3,313 votes in the elections.
One of the candidates, Mr Ojukwu, condemned the election saying it was characterised by fraud.
On May 5th, the agency filed the 14-count charge against the defendants.
The EFCC counsel, Bilikisu Buhari Bala, told the court that the defendants committed the offences in August, 2018.
The counsel also alleged that they conspired and altered personal details including email addresses and phone numbers of about 1004 eligible voters for the elections, with the intention that such inauthentic data will be acted upon as genuine during the said election.
Some of the voters’ names allegedly falsified were: Gabriel Abijo Oladipo with Supreme Court of Nigeria (SCN) No. 043280; Uthman Adeleye Oluwaseun with SCN No. 088449; David Anakor SCN No. 015233; Chiagoziem Bethel Aninilu, SCN No. 114439 and Bankole Isaac Toyin with SCN no. 024643.
The two lawyers were alleged to have used a smoke model on IP address 188.8.131.52 to commit electoral fraud.
The offences, according to the prosecutor, contravened and were punishable under sections 27(1)(b), 13, 22(2), 22(3) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention etc.) Act, 2015.
Ajibola and Demide pleaded not guilty.
Their counsel, N. E. Ogeibe and Deborah Ogundele asked the court to admit them to bail “in the most liberal terms.”
They told the court that Ajibola was a senior lawyer of over 15 years, and would neither jump bail nor tamper with evidence for the charge.
In a bench ruling, Justice Obiozor admitted each defendant to bail in the sum of N500,000 with one surety each.