The trial of former Head of Service of the Federation (HoS), Winifred Oyo-Ita, continued Tuesday at the Federal High Court in Abuja, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has said.
A statement by the spokesman for the commission, Wilson Uwujaren, noted that the trial judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, adjourned the ruling till Thursday.
Justice Taiwo is expected to rule on the propriety or otherwise of the order freezing the accounts belonging to the fourth, fifth and sixth defendants secured by the EFCC.
According to the anti-graft agency, the freeze order obtained from Justice Mojisola Giwa-Ogubanjo of a Federal High Court in Abuja became a contentious issue following objections to it by the defence team, which felt it constituted abuse of court process.
Counsels to the fourth, fifth and sixth defendants – A.C. Ananukwa and Chitoo Nbanor, told the court that their clients could not make an appearance in court on Tuesday because their accounts had been frozen, leaving them and their families high and dry.
They, therefore, requested the court to mandate the EFCC to unfreeze the accounts.
Although Justice Taiwo was angered by the freeze order from another court, which he felt undermined his court, the prosecution took time to explain why it took the action.
Abuse Of Court Processes?
Addressing the judge and the defence counsel, the prosecution counsel, M.S. Abubakar, stated that the freeze order would not impact the trial of the defendants.
He disclosed that the EFCC secured the freeze order based on other cases involving the defendants in both Justices Ogubanjo and Inyang Ekwo’s courts.
“At this point, it is worthy to explain that the criminal matter between your lordships is a one of a whole. The first defendant in this matter has been availed with some of the counts in charge number 60 and 61 before Justice Ogunbanjo and, I.E Ekwo charge number FAC/ABJ/CR/61/2020 between FG and Kabir Turaki (SAN) and five others,” Abubakar said.
He added, “The bank accounts of the respondents in the application to Ogunbanjo contain some bank accounts before you and the other charge that I mentioned earlier (Kabir Turaki) as the two cases emanated from Ekwo and yours emanated from the same case file, but because of the multiplicity of the members of the case, the prosecution decided to split the two charges for ease of prosecution.
“In light of this, it is my humble submission, that we did not engage in abuse of court processes. We also did not file this application as lack of confidence in the court. We only did it in exercise of our statutory duty and with utmost transparency.
“However, we sincerely apologise in the event that our action displeased this honourable court. We have confidence in your lordship’s ability to do justice in this matter and all other matters.”
The prosecution counsel opposed the defence’s application for adjournment, saying that it ran against Section 3 and 6 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and contrary to Section 19, 2c of EFCC Act 2004 and Section 20 (3) of the Money Laundering Act of 2011 as amended, upon which the case was filed.
The judge, however, adjourned further proceedings in the case, saying he needed time to study the arguments of the prosecution on the frozen accounts to make his ruling.
Oyo-Ita is being prosecuted on 18 counts of official corruption and money laundering to the tune of N570 million, involving obtaining of estacodes and duty travel allowance (DTA) for journeys either not undertaken or non-existent.
She is facing charges along with Frontline Ace Global Services Limited, Asanaya Projects Limited, as well as one Garba Umar and his companies – Slopes International Limited and Gooddeal Investments Limited.
Others are Ubong Effiok and his companies – U and U Global Services Limited, and Prince Mega Logistics Limited.