The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, warned lawyers to the parties in the trial of a former Registrar of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Dibu Ojerinde, and four of his children, against frivolous requests for adjournment.
The trial judge, Inyang Ekwo, gave the warning following a plea for an adjournment by B.A. Oyefeso, a new lawyer in the matter.
Mr Ekwo threatened to make “a consequential order” should the trial get stalled at the next sitting.
Mr Oyefeso, who stood in for a defence lawyer, Ahmed Raji, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, had told the court, at the resumed hearing, that they were not ready to proceed with the trial.
According to him, their team had requested some evidence needed to prepare adequately for defence but had yet to get it.
Ebenezer Shogunle, the anti-graft ICPC prosecuting counsel, said he would provide Mr Raji with the documents they requested. He said he only got to know of the request earlier before the proceedings.
“You were given two days for trial?” Mr Ekwo asked Mr Shogunle.
“Yes, we are ready and they just came into the matter.
“We know that the previous counsel was served in the interest of justice, we are ready to serve them afresh.
“We will make copies available to them,” he responded.
The judge, therefore, expressed displeasure that the matter would not proceed.
“I am not happy that this matter is not going on.
“I am adjourning this matter very reluctantly and there will be consequences if the matter does not go on, on the next date.
“The counsel responsible will be personally penalised,” he warned.
Mr Ekwo then adjourned the matter until 18, 20, 21, and 22 February 2024 for trial.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the trial was, on Monday, stalled when Ibrahim Isiyaku, a SAN, counsel for Mr Ojerinde and six others, sought an adjournment to enable him to make proper arrangements for the defendants’ representation.
The senior lawyer had told the court that having studied the case file, he realised that he could not appear for all the 11 defendants but seven of the defendants only to avoid a conflict of interest.
Therefore, while Mr Isiyaku would be representing the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th defendants, Mr Raji would be appearing for the 3rd, 5th, 6th and 8th defendants, respectively.
NAN reports that the ICPC had, on 15 June, arraigned the ex-JAMB registrar on charges of official corruption and abuse of office.
In a charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/119/2023, Mr Ojerinde (1st defendant) was arraigned alongside four of his children; Mary Ojerinde, Olumide Ojerinde, Adebayo Ojerinde and Oluwaseun Ojerinde as 8th to 11th defendants.
Also joined as defendants in the case with 17 counts are six companies linked to him, namely: Doyin Ogbohi Petroleum Limited, Cheng Marbles Limited, Sapati International Schools Limited, Trillium Learning Centre Limited, Standout Institutes Limited and Esli Perfect Security Printers Limited, the 2nd to 7th defendants, respectively.
The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the counts preferred against them and were granted bail by the court.
In the 17 charges, ICPC alleged that the former JAMB boss conspired with three of his children (Oluwaseun Ojerinde, Olumide Ojerinde, and Adebayo Ojerinde) to sell off property worth $150,000 after it had been forfeited to the federal government by a court order.
The property is located at House No. 4 Ahomko Drive, Achimota Phase 2, Accra, Ghana.
The prosecution also accused Mr Ojerinde of incorporating companies and taking up simultaneous appointments as chairman and director, while being a public officer on full-time appointment as registrar/chief executive of National Examinations Council (NECO), Minna and the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Bwari, Abuja.
ICPC said this was despite that Mr Ojerinde knew “very well that the Code of Conduct for Public Officers forbids public officers from engaging in private business other than farming or participating in shareholding of joint stock companies.”
The commission also alleged that Mr Ojerinde, “in order to avoid various anti-corruption and anti-money laundering policies of government, notably Know Your Customer (KYC) and Bank Verification Number (BVN) policies, took measures to conceal his ownership and active participation in the management of some of these companies by using forged documents, stolen identities and synthetic names.”
According to ICPC, some of the alleged offences are contrary to and punishable under Sections 17, 19, 22 and 24 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
Some of the offences were also said to be contrary to, and punishable under Section 1 of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act, 2006.
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