The judge had issued a bench warrant on the two accused.
An Ikeja High Court on Thursday refused to discharge a bench warrant issued on two oil marketers – Oluwaseun Ogunbambo and Habila Theck. Both men had petitioned the Lagos Chief Judge against Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo who is presiding over their trial
Mr. Onigbanjo had on June 25 issued the warrant for the arrest of the defendants for failing to attend trial without cogent reasons.
Messrs Ogunbambo and Theck were charged to court along with their firm – Fargo Energy Ltd – over alleged N979.6 million fuel subsidy fraud by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
During Thursday’s proceedings, both defendants appeared before the court without their counsel.
They told the court that their counsel was attending to another matter in Abuja and had sent a letter to the court regarding his absence.
The Counsel to the EFCC, Francis Usani, said he was unaware of the letter, pointing out that the counsel on the court’s record was Adebayo Adenipekun and not the new counsel.
He said the letter presented to the court was signed by one Mobolaji Akintunde, who was not a known counsel in the matter. He also notified the court that the defendants had approached the Federal High Court in Lagos to get an order restraining the EFCC from enforcing Mr. Onigbanjo’s bench warrant.
“I have a copy of the Federal High Court’s order. It is a strange legal practice because both courts are of coordinate jurisdiction,” Mr. Usani said.
He, therefore, urged the court to discharge the bench warrant issued on the defendants.
Responding, the judge said the case file of the defendants was with the State Chief Judge, Ayotunde Phillips.
He said Ms. Phillips had recalled the file following a petition written against Mr. Onigbanjo by Mr. Ogunbambo.
“As it stands now, I cannot discharge the order. We will have to wait until the file is returned or the chief judge decides to transfer the case to another judge,” Mr. Onigbanjo said.
The judge adjourned the case till November 18 for mention.
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