Alleged N570m fraud: Absence of EFCC counsel stalls Oyo-Ita’s trial
The trial of the immediate past Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, was on Wednesday stalled due to the absence of the lawyer to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mohammed Abubakar.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the EFCC had, on March 23, charged Oyo-Ita and eight with 18-counts of money laundering to the tune of N570 million. Those arraigned alongside the former HOS were Frontline Ace Global Services Limited; Asanaya Projects Limited; Garba Umar and his companies: Slopes International Limited; Good Deal Investments Limited; Ubong Okon Effiok and his own company, U & U Global Services Limited and Prince Mega Logistics Limited. The defendants were accused of fraud in relation to duty tour allowances (DTA); estacode; conference fees fraud and receiving kickbacks on contracts.
According to the anti-corruption agency, investigations revealed that Oyo-Ita, in her roles in the civil service as director, permanent secretary and head of service, used her companies as well as Effiok’s and Umar’s companies as fronts to receive kickbacks from contractors of various ministries and parastatal agencies she worked.
However, at the resumed hearing on Wednesday, Abubakar, the prosecution counsel, was not in court. Oyo-Ita’s Counsel, Paul Erokoro, told Justice Taiwo Taiwo he did not know the reason for Abubakar’s absence. Erokoro then urged the court to grant an adjournment. “Since we do not know why they are not here, we ask for a fairly long adjournment to give the prosecution time subject to the court’s convenience. “We also ask that they be issued hearing notices,” he said. Lawyers, who represented the other defendants, aligned themselves with the submissions of Erokoro and did not object to the application for an adjournment.
Justice Taiwo, in his ruling, said he took judicial notice of the prosecutor’s absence. He also agreed to grant a long adjournment since the matter “is not classified urgent and time bound” and to give the prosecutor time to make himself available. The judge, therefore, adjourned the case until July 8 and ordered that a hearing notice should be served on the prosecution. (NAN)