Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki’s deputy Chief of Staff, Gbenga Makanjuola, has been re-arraigned by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Mr. Makanjuola was re-arraigned by the anti-graft agency alongside two others on Wednesday before Justice Maureen Onyetenu of the Federal High Court in Lagos.

The other defendants are a cashier in the Senate President’s office, Kolawole Shittu, a former Managing Director of Societe Generale Bank, Robert Chidozie (who is said to be at large), a company – Melrose General Services Ltd, and its operations manager, Obiora Amobi.

In the amended 11 counts, the defendants among other things allegedly converted N3.5bn transferred from the Nigerian Governors’ Forum.

The anti-graft agency said that the money was part of a larger sum of N19bn diverted from the London-Paris Club refund to states.

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The defendants were also accused of conspiring to disguise the unlawful origin of the N3.5billion which was paid into the account of Melrose General Services Limited.

They were re-arraigned following the transfer of the initial trial judge, Justice Babs Kuewumi, from the Lagos Division of the court to the Sokoto Division.

Justice Onyetenu who replaced Justice Kuewumi was transferred from the Osogbo Division of the court to Lagos.

The defendants again pleaded not guilty to the amended charge.

The trial judge, thereafter, allowed them to continue on the bail already granted them by Justice Kuewumi before adjourning the trial to May 20, 21 and 22.

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One of the counts against the defendants read: “That you, Gbenga Makanjuola, sometime in December 2016 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, did accept cash payment of the sum of $500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Dollars Only) from Kolawole Shittu without going through a financial institution and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 1(a) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2011 (as amended by Act No. 1 of 2012) and punishable under Section 16 (2) (b) of the same Act.”

Another count read, “That you, Robert Chidozie Mbonu (now at large) and Melrose General Services Limited between the 14th day of December, 2016 and January, 2017 in Nigeria, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, took control of the sum of N3,500,000,000.00 (Three Billion, Five Hundred Million Naira Only) transferred from the Nigerian Governors Forum’s account into Access Bank Plc account number 0005892453 by Melrose General Services Limited, when you reasonably ought to have known that the said fund represented the proceeds of unlawful activities to wit-conspiracy, stealing and fraud-and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15(2) (9) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011( as amended by the Act No.1, 2012) and punishable under Section 15( 3) of the same Act.”

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