The judge was said to be on “national assignment”
The absence of Justice Ishaq Bello of an Abuja High Court on Thursday stalled the trial of a former Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor.
Mr. Ogbulafor is being prosecuted by the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, alongside Jude Nwokolo and Emeka Ebilah.
The accused are facing a 17-count charge bordering on fraud to the tune of N170 million.
At the resumed hearing of the case, the court clerk informed the counsel to the ICPC, Adegboyega Awomolo, and the defence team that Mr. Bello was on a national assignment. The judge was recently appointed as the Chairman of the Anambra Election Tribunal.
A new date, February 20, was thereafter given to the counsel to address the court.
The ICPC had, in the charge, alleged that Mr. Ogbulafor, while serving as Minister of State for Special Duties in 2001, conspired with the others to float three fictitious companies with which they perpetrated the fraud.
They were alleged to have used Henrichiko Nig. Ltd, DHL Consultants and Chekwas Industries, to fraudulently obtain N82.6 million, N11.5 million and N6.2 million, respectively, in 2001.
Mr. Ogbulafor was specifically alleged to have used his position as the head of the National Economic Intelligence Committee, NEIC – set up to verify debts owed local contractors – to okay as genuine, several forged documents.
He was alleged to have relied on the forged documents to certify that the three fake companies successfully executed jobs worth N104 million.
The former PDP chairman was also alleged to have collected kickbacks of N2 million and N28 million from Ebilah.
According to the ICPC, the offences committed contravened Section 19 of the Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Act, 2000.