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Alleged N1.85bn fraud: Court remands two rural electrification officials

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The Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday, ordered the remand of two staff members of the Rural Electrification Agency (REA) in Kuje Correctional Centre over an alleged N1.853 billion fraud.

The presiding judge, Justice Emeka Nwite, ordered that Umar Laraye and Emmanuel Titus be remanded pending the determination of their bail application.

They were alleged to have defrauded the agency of N165 million and N261 million respectively under the “false presence of project supervision”.

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Laraye and Titus are among four officials of REA being tried for alleged N1.85 billion fraud by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

On June 6, Usman Kwakwa, a staff of REA, was arraigned for allegedly stealing N298 million through the agency’s payment platform.

The judge had issued a bench warrant for the arrest of Laraye, Titus and Henrientta Okojie, another staff, after Osuobeni Akponimisingha, ICPC counsel, moved an oral application following their absence from court.

The judge then scheduled June 13 for ICPC to produce Laraye and Titus in court, while Okojie’s case was fixed for June 14.

At the resumed court session on Thursday, the ICPC lawyer applied that the June 6 bench warrant be vacated against Laraye and Titus since the defendants were in court

Nwite granted the request accordingly.

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

Idoko Alhassan, who appeared for the two defendants, however told the court he already filed bail applications for his clients.

But Akponimisingha, in his response, said he was yet to receive copies of the bail application.

The judge adjourned the matter to June 20, adding that the prosecution was still within time to file a response to the bail applications.

In March, President Bola Tinubu approved the indefinite suspension of Ahmad Salihijo Ahmad, the managing director of REA, as well as three executive directors of the agency, following findings obtained during a comprehensive investigation into the financial activities of the agency.

However, Ahmad’s name did not appear in any of the charges by the ICPC. He is yet to be recalled from suspension.

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