The suspects pleaded not guilty to the charges.
A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja, Wednesday, fixed the trial of Fred Ajudua, alleged serial fraudster, for April 28 and 29.
Justice Kudirat Jose also fixed February 20 for hearing of the bail application filed by the defendants.
Mr. Ajudua and his co-defendant, Charles Orie, are facing trial for defrauding Remy Cina and Pierre Vijgen, two European businessmen, of $1.69 million (N287 million).
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is accusing Messrs Ajudua, Orie, Rasheed Adekunle, Abisola Fawehinmi, and Stephen Joiner (the last three are still at large) of committing the crime between 1999 and 2000.
Mr. Ajudua, who is also known as Isa Audu, and the others allegedly obtained the money from the businessmen as sundry payment to various government officials for payment of an $18 million contract No. FMA/EED/3040/S92, according to the EFCC.
When the four-count charge of obtaining money by false pretence was read to the defendants, both pleaded not guilty.
Both defendants were first arraigned on 24th July, 2003, before Joseph Olubunmi Oyewole.
But Mr. Ajudua’s disappearance during trial in 2007, after he was granted bail to seek medical check-up overseas, stalled the trial until early last year.
After his surprising reappearance, Mr. Oyewole declined to free him on bail, forcing his lawyers to approach another judge, Ganiyu Safari, who granted his bail request.
On Wednesday, Olalekan Ojo, Mr. Ajudua’s lawyer, told the judge that his client had suffered a “barrage of life-threatening illnesses) since last year.
Before the day’s sitting began, Mr. Ajudua’s bulky frame lay in a heap at the back of the court room, his eyes closed.
When the case was called, two prison wardens supported him as he made his way to the dock, where he sat down.
“I wish to inform my lord that from the track number of this suit, this is the 10th year. And the first defendant, in the course of the chequered history of this trial, developed illness,” said Mr. Ojo.
“On the 10th of September 2013, the high court of Lagos State presided over by Justice G.A Safari admitted the first defendant on bail on health grounds.
“G.A Safari considered the health problems that bedevilled the first defendant,” he added.
Mr. Ojo appealed to the judge to exercise her discretionary power and allow his client to continue on the N50 million bail granted by Justice Safari.
“Ever since (he was granted bail), we’ve not been able to perfect it. We were in the process of perfecting it before the matter was transferred to this court.
“Your lordship has the power to breathe life to the extant bail granted by Safari.
“The ability of the first defendant to stand trial is predicated on his being alive,” Mr. Ojo added.
Olumuyiwa Balogun, counsel to the EFCC, argued that since the trial was starting afresh, the defendants ought to file fresh applications for bail.
Mr. Balogun said that while the prosecution would not object to any bail application filed by Mr. Orie – who had never missed trial since his bail in July 2004 – the same position would not be taken for Mr. Ajudua.
“This matter is starting afresh, every order before now is cancelled. As it is, there is nothing before the court to show the exact health status of the defendant as to evoke the compassion of the court.
The judge adjourned till February 20 for bail hearing after Mr. Ojo filed his application.
On February 12, Mr. Ajudua would be arraigned before Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye of the Ikeja High Court, Lagos, over the alleged defrauding of former Chief of Army Staff, Ishaya Bamaiyi.
Mr. Ajudua is being charged with 13 counts of conspiracy and fraud in that case.
In his petition to the EFCC, Mr. Bamaiyi had alleged that the suspect, along with others, duped him of $8.39 million between November 2004 and June 2005.
Mr. Bamaiyi accused the suspects of swindling him of the money under the pretence of using it to persuade Mr. Oyewole, his trial judge, to release him from the Kirikiri Maximum Prison.
The retired army general, who had been arraigned for the alleged attempted murder of Alex Ibru, the publisher of Guardian Newspaper, was later freed when the judge ruled that the state could not prove its case against the accused.