Alleged N47.1 billion theft: Akingbola fails to open defence

The former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank Plc, Erastus Akingbola, on Monday failed to open his defence on the charges laid against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Mr. Akingbola is standing trial before an Ikeja High Court, presided over by Justice Habeeb Abiru, for allegedly stealing the sum of N47.1 billion owned by the bank.

He was arraigned alongside an associate, Bayo Dada, on May 31, 2011 on a 21-count charge bordering on conspiracy and stealing.

The EFCC alleged that the accused persons stole the money from Intercontinental Bank (now Access Bank), between March and May 2009, while Mr. Akingbola was the bank’s Chief Executive Officer.

The commission had on April 5 closed its case against Mr. Akingbola after calling its two witnesses, Abdulraheem Jimoh, Chief Inspector of Intercontinental Bank, and Nkechi Ibebaku, an EFCC investigative officer.

The closure paved way for the former bank chief to open his defence and the court had fixed May 21 for his counsel, Felix Fagbohungbe, to call the defence witnesses.

However, on Monday, both Mr. Akingbola and Mr. Fagbohungbe failed to appear before the court. They sent a junior counsel, Grant Onwuka, to inform the court of their absence.

An EFCC counsel, Ayodeji Arowolo, told the court that the defence had sent a letter to the prosecution notifying them of their absence.

Mr. Arowolo said the letter indicated that both MESSRS Akingbola and Dada were involved in a civil matter before another court.

He said that they had apologised to the prosecution for the clash in the date of both proceedings and also asked the court to vacate the other dates fixed for the matter this week.

The judge expressed dissatisfaction with the development, noting that it was a waste of the court’s time and an unnecessary delay of the trial.

However, he adjourned the matter till May 28 and vacated the other dates fixed for this week for the trial.

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