Absence of defence counsel stalls trial in alleged N1.4b subsidy fraud
• S’ Court fixes Nov 1 for hearing on Rivers, Imo oil wells battle
The trial of Abubakar Ali Peters and his company, Nadabo Energy Limited, over an alleged N1.4 billion oil fraud, could not hold, yesterday, before Justice S.S. Ogunsanya of the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja, following absence of the defence counsel.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is prosecuting Peters and his company on a 21-count charge bordering on obtaining money under false pretense, diversion of Federal Government funds, and forgery.
The trial, which began in October 2015, was slated to continue, yesterday, with Executive Chairman of the EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, in court to resume his testimony as second prosecution witness.
According to EFCC spokesperson, Wilson Uwujaren, the defendant, who was present in court, informed the sitting that he had been unable to reach his lawyer on the phone.
He said: “My Lord, my lawyer is flying in from Kaduna to Lagos for the case and must have been airborne.” Prosecuting counsel, S.K. Atteh, however, drew the attention of the court to the fact that the case had suffered several adjournments at the instance of the defence, and that “the Chairman came all the way from Abuja, leaving his enormous responsibilities to continue with his examination-in-chief.”
The case was briefly stood down to allow time for the lawyer to be present in court. But when the matter was later called, Peters informed the court that he was still unable to reach his lawyer, saying: “I called the principal and he said he would get back to me. But he is yet to do so.”
Consequently, Justice Ogunsanya adjourned till September 22, 2021 for continuation of the trial.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, yesterday, shifted the legal battle between Rivers and Imo States over ownership of 17 oil wells in their territories to November 1 for definite hearing.
The apex court fixed the date after the Attorney General of the Federation (first defendant) and Imo State (second defendant) formally made appearances through their lawyers, Dr Remi Peter Olatubura and Chief Olusola Oke.
Justice Kudirat Kekere Ekun set the stage for determination of the suit instituted by Rivers State shortly after identifying some of the processes filed for and against the legal action.
The court had on Wednesday, July 14, granted an order of injunction stopping the Federal Government and its agencies from ceding the disputed wells located in Akri and Mbede to Imo State.