“You have a case to answer,” judge tells Herman Hembe

Former Chairman, House Committee on Capital Markets and Institutions, Herman Hembe, has lost his bid to stop his trial, as an Abuja High Court dismissed his application asking the court to quash the criminal charges against him, Daily Times reports.

In a court ruling presided over by Justice Abubakar Umar on Wednesday, Hembe’s application was turned down alongside that of the deputy chairman of the committee, Chris Azubuogu, challenging his arraignment.

They are both facing a two-count charge of misappropriation and conversion of public funds following an allegation by the former Director-General of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Arunmah Oteh.

The EFCC filed a criminal charge against the two over an allegation that they converted to personal use, the $4,095 given to them by the SEC as travel allowance for a conference in the Dominican Republic in October 2011.

Going by the amount involved, Hembe’s alleged offence is a far cry compared to the $3 million alleged to be involved in the case between fellow House of Representative member, Farouk Lawan, and businessman, Femi Otedola.

According to the EFCC, the offense is contrary to Section 308 of the Penal Code Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 and if found guilty, they can serve a jail term of not less than seven years.

In his ruling, Justice Umar, dismissed the argument of the defense counsel, Jibrin Okutepa, that the charges were an abuse of court process, the judge held that the EFCC had sought leave of court to file criminal charges against both accused.

“I dismiss the prayers sought in the preliminary objections filed by the accused persons,” Umar said.

“All the court needs to consider at the moment is that from the proof of evidence; was money collected but not used for the purpose it was meant for?

“My answer is yes, the accused persons collected the said amount. In fact, they did not deny collecting it. At the first look of the statement of the witnesses the EFCC intended to bring to court, there is evidence that, if uncontested, can establish a fact that the accused persons did not deny collecting the sum of $4,095.

“I, therefore, order the EFCC to unfailingly arraign the two accused persons.”

He went on to adjourn the case to July 18 for arraignment of the suspects and ordered an accelerated trial to commence the next day.

The judge also chided the EFCC Counsel, Umma Mu’azu, for rushing to court without adequately preparing a convincing case and thereafter seeking unnecessary adjournments.

Okutepa, counsel to Hembe, however objected to the application for adjournment.

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