The case involving a former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva, being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, before Justice A. Y Mohammed of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has been adjourned till May 27.
Mr. Sylva, along with Francis Okokwo, Gbenga Balogun, and Samuel Ogbuku, allegedly used three companies – Marlin Maritime Limited, Eat Catering Services Limited, and Haloween-Blue Construction and Logistics Limited to move about N19.2 billion from Bayelsa State coffers between 2009 and 2012, under false pretence of using the withdrawn money to augment salaries of the state government workers.
Since the matter began in 2013, several applications filed by the defence have made it difficult for Mr. Sylva to be arraigned.
At the last sitting on May 14, Justice Mohammed had in his ruling dismissed an application brought before it by the third accused, Gbenga Balogun, through his counsel Israel Olorundare, SAN, praying the court to first determine the legal standing of the lead prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, to handle the matter, as well as a motion challenging the competence of the 42-count charge.
Justice Mohammed had ruled that: “With regards to the application, I do not agree that the involvement of Rotimi Jacobs, contradicts any law of professional conducts, and so, I therefore rule that it is devoid of any merit, and is accordingly dismissed”.
At the resumed sitting on Thursday, the court was to hear all pending applications before it with regards to the matter. Notable was an application filed by counsel to Mr. Sylva, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), challenging the charges brought against his client by the EFCC and another application by Mr. Ogbuku, challenging the power of the EFCC to prosecute the case, claiming that only the Attorney General had the power to do so.
In his argument, Mr. Jacobs told the court that he only got the application filed by Fagbemi on May 18 and that he would need time to go through it for appropriate action. He argued that the application seems like a calculated attempt to drag the matter further, since the charges which they are challenging was served them since 2013.
“We served them this charges since 2013, why are they now just waking up from their slumber,” Rotimi said.
Mr. Fagbemi, however, argued that, since the case was a criminal matter, an application needed only 48 hours to be served on the respondent. The condition, he said, was met in this case.
Justice Mohammed, after listening to arguments from both counsel, adjourned to May 27, for hearing on all pending applications.