The judge overseeing the trial of a former Head of Service, Winifred Oyo-Ita, at the Federal High Court in Abuja, on Thursday, threatened to withdraw from the case.
Ms Oyo-Ita, who was prematurely retired over corruption allegations late 2019, is being prosecuted along with others before the judge for money laundering involving N570million.
Taiwo Taiwo, the trial judge, was angry that the prosecution allegedly snubbed his directive to terminate the parallel proceedings instituted against three of Mrs Oyo-Ita’s co-defendants before another judge.
The parallel case is an interim forfeiture application filed by the prosecution before Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo, a judge of the same court in Abuja, for the freezing of the accounts of the three co-defendants.
“Do the needful and withdrawal it, or else I will return the file to the Chief Judge.
“I cannot discharge an order made by a sister court,” Mr Taiwo warned on Thursday.
The defence had on December 1, 2020, reported to Mr Taiwo that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) surreptitiously obtained an order freezing their clients’ accounts from another judge, Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo.
Describing the development as an “abuse of court process,” the defence urged the court to adjourn the case indefinitely until the anti-corruption agency presented evidence that the accounts had been unfrozen.
The judge, who was displeased with the EFCC after listening to the defence lawyers, said the prosecution’s action was a slap on his face and demonstration of the commission’s lack of confidence in his court.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Mr Taiwo recalled on Thursday that he had,on December 3, ordered EFCC’s lawyer, Mohammed Abubakar, to close the case in the other court.
He said he adjourned the case till January 13, but still could not find anything in his file showing EFCC had taken steps in that direction.
“Why do you have to go to Ogunbanjo when the case is pending here?” Mr Taiwo queried again on Thursday.
Responding, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Abubakar, said
EFCC filed the exparte motion to obtain the freezing order, but it was the Chief Judge of the court who assigned it to Ms Giwa-Ogunbanjo.
Insisting that the prosecution must terminate the proceedings before Ms Giwa-Ogunbanjo, Mr Taiwo said, “That is what the law says.”
“We will see how we can withdraw it,” Abubakar said in response.
Mr Taiwo then adjourned the matter till February 24.
Aside from Mrs Oyo-Ita, other defendants in the case include, Frontline Ace Global Services Ltd and Asanaya Projects Ltd, Garba Umar, his two companies, Slopes International Ltd and Gooddeal Investment Ltd – the 2nd to 6th defendants.
The rest, who are the 7th to the 9th defendants are, Ubong Okon Effiok, his two companies, U & U Global Services Ltd and Prince Mega Logistics Ltd.
The EFCC accused the ex-HoS of engaging in fraud in relation to Duty Tour Allowance, estacodes, conference fees and receiving kickbacks on contracts.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: To advertise here . Call Willie +2347088095401...