N19.2bn Fraud: Trial of ex-Bayelsa Governor, Timipre Sylva, resumes Tuesday

Nigeria's minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipreye Sylva,
Nigeria's minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipreye Sylva,

The trial of a former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, accused of stealing N19.2billion from the state treasury while he governed the state between 2007 and 2011 will resume Tuesday before Justice A. Y. Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja.

The former governor was docked by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alongside his co-accused in July 2014 for allegedly using three companies to siphon funds from the Bayelsa state treasury between 2009 and 2012.

The companies are Marlin Maritime Limited, Eat Catering Services Limited, and Haloween-Blue Construction and Logistics Limited.

But Mr. Sylva, who mounted the dock alongside one of his alleged accomplice, Gbenga Balogun, could not enter his plea due to the absence of two other accused persons in the matter — Francis Okokuro and Samuel Ogbuku.

The former has however consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Consequently, the prosecuting counsel, Adegbite Adeniyi, urged the court to issue a bench warrant against them.

However, his application was vehemently opposed by Mr. Sylva’s lawyer, Israel Olorundare, SAN, who insisted that the court must first determine the competence of his motion challenging the 42-count criminal charge preferred against his client by the EFCC as well as the legal standing of the lead prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) to handle the matter.

Justice Mohammed, in his ruling, ordered that a criminal summon be issued against the two accused persons who were absent in court.

“As far as this court is concerned, there is a charge brought against the accused person and they are expected to be in court at all times. There is no such position of the law known to this court that an
accused person who is challenging the process before the court or jurisdiction should not appear in court,” the judge said.


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