UPDATE: Court fails to sit for the arraignment of the second batch of oil subsidy suspects involving Mamman Tukur; shifted to Thursday
Justice Habeeb Abiru of the High Court in Lagos, on Wednesday, adjourned the arraignment of five oil subsidy fraud suspects till Thursday after one of the accused persons failed to appear in court.
Walter Wagbatsoma, the first accused, and his cohorts – Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi, Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer, Ezekiel Olaleye Ejidele, and Ontario Oil and Gas are charged with fraudulently obtaining N1.9 billion from the Petroleum Support Fund for a purported importation of 39.2 million litres of Premium Motor Spirit.
Olawale Akanbi, counsel to Mr. Wagbatsoma, said that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had not served his client with the court papers.
“I haven’t’ spoken with him, I received instructions to appear on his behalf…,” said Mr. Akanbi, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
Rotimi Jacobs, counsel to EFCC, told the court that efforts to reach Mr. Wagbatsoma yielded no results.
“All efforts made by us to get him to appear did not yield any fruitful result. But happily, he is represented by the learned SAN….
“I will on that ground ask my lord for the adjournment of this matter tomorrow, on the grounds that the first accused person is not in court,” Mr. Jacobs said.
Mr. Jacobs also said that the Attorney-General of the Federation “who is prosecuting this case intends to come personally tomorrow to lead the prosecution team.”
A mild drama played out in court when two lawyers announced their intention to represent Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer, one of the accused persons.
Abimbola Adeyemi, Mr. Fakuade’s company lawyer announced his intention to represent Mr. Fakuade immediately after Sunday Afolabi, his family lawyer, told the court his intention to do same.
Mr. Fakuade, however, decided that his company lawyer would represent him.
While frowning at Mr. Wagbatsoma’s absence in court, Mr. Abiru said that his counsel cannot represent him in his absence.
“He must be here before he can be represented,” said Mr. Abiru.
“If he’s not in court and he is dodging, there are implications to it,” he added.
Read our earlier post below
A Lagos High Court has adjourned the arraignment of the first batch of oil subsidy fraud suspects till Thursday after one of the accused persons failed to appear in court.
While three of the suspects was in court, one stayed away.
While adjourning the case till Thursday, the judge said all the accused persons must be in court for the arraignment.
The lawyer to the EFCC also requested the court to fix the arraignment for Thursday to enable the Attorney General of the Federation to personally appear in court.
The second batch of suspects would be arraigned before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo by 1 p.m.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had on Tuesday unveiled the first group of 20 suspected fraudsters billed for arraignment over their involvement in the subsidy scam.
The suspects include Mahmud Tukur, the son of the national chairman of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, Bamanga Tukur.
Mahmud is managaing director of Eterna Oil, which has as board chair, the vice-presidential candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria in the 2011 election, Fola Adeola.
CORRECTION: This post has been updated. The intial despatch from our reporter indicated that all the suspects failed to appear in court. The error is deeply regretted.