The former PDP boss is being prosecuted by the ICPC for contract scam while serving as minister.
The trial of a former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Vincent Ogbulafor, over an alleged N170 million contract fraud, was stalled on Tuesday following the absence of the judge.
The Judge at the Abuja High Court, Ishaq Bello, who last presided over the matter on July 11, was said to have travelled to Saudi Arabia for the pilgrimage. Mr. Bello was expected to hear the testimony of a principal witness of the prosecution.
The trial is now expected to continue on Wednesday, November 7.
The prosecutor, a Senior Legal Officer with the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission, ICPC, paul Bassi, said the new date was given to the counsel to Mr. Ogbulafor, Joe Gadzama, by the court clerk.
The ICPC is prosecuting Mr. Ogbulafor, Jude Nwokolo, Henry Ikoh and Emeka Emmanuel on a 16-count charge of alleged involvement in a N170 million fraud. The agency alleged that while serving as the Minister of State for Economic Affairs in 2001, the former PDP leader connived with the others to float three fictitious companies through which they perpetrated the fraud.
They were alleged to have used Henrichiko Nig. Ltd, DHL Consultants, and Chekwas Industries to siphon N82.6 million, N11.5 million and N6.2 million, respectively in 2001.
The prosecution also alleged that Mr. Ogbulafor used his position as the Head of the National Economic Intelligence Committee, set up to verify debts owed local contractors, to pass some forged documents.
On May 30, six months after the case was adjourned indefinitely, the judge granted permission to ICPC to reopen its case on July 11 and July 12.
The decision followed an application filed by ICPC Counsel, Adegboye Awomolo, asking for the case to be relisted on the court list. The application was after a stay of proceedings in the case, pending the determination of a motion he filed at the Court of Appeal.
ICPC asked for the stay of proceedings because the commission was challenging Mr. Bello’s ruling granting Mr. Ogbulafor’s application for severance of trial, delivered on December 14, 2010.
Bello had severed the trial because Mr. Nwokolo, Mr. Ikoh and Mr. Emanuel filed a case at the Court of Appeal, challenging the ruling of the court in which the judge said they had a case to answer in the matter.
Bello said that because the appeal filed by the three accused persons had yet to be heard, the trial had to be severed so that the others could stand trial after their appeal had been determined.