Alleged N4.8bn Fraud: Lagos Govt Move To Take Over Trial Of Chief Ibeto

0
Share:

…It’s An Attempt To Scuttle Trial -EFCC

Kemisola Oye 

THE scheduled arraignment of the Chairman of Ibeto Energy Development Company, Chief Cletus Ibeto suffered another setback earlier today due to the move by the office of the Lagos State Attorney-General to take over the prosecution of the Four Billion, Eight Hundred Million Naira (N4.800,000,000.00) fraud from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The EFCC had planned to arraign Chief Ibeto alongside his companies, Ibeto Energy Development Company and Odoh Holdings Limited over the alleged N4.8 billion fraud on four occasions, 28 September, 5 October and 3 and 15 November, the defendant has been absent in court on those occasions but his lawyers represented him.

Due to the failure of the defendants to appear in court to take their plea, the trial judge, Justice Ismail Ijelu of a Lagos High Court, Ikeja had on 3 November 2023 issued a bench warrant of arrest against the defendants despite many undertakings by his lawyers to produce him in court.

However, at the resumed proceeding today, the office of the Lagos State Attorney-General announced its intention to take over the prosecution. The state’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Dr. Jide Martins told the court that the AG is considering taking over the matter based on a petition written by the defendant. 

The counsel to the EFCC, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) described the move by the Lagos AG as an attempt to scuttle the trial.

The anti-graft agency had slammed a 10-count charge bordering on allegations of conspiracy, fraud, forgery and fraudulent use of documents on the defendants.

Earlier, Martins informed the court of a petition written by the law firm of Robert Clarke (SAN) seeking a review of the case file and the outright taking over of the case by the office of the Attorney-General. The DPP further told the court that although the Ministry of Justice has written to the EFCC requesting the case file, the AG has not decided on the issue. 

Based on the development, the defence counsel, Mr, Uche Obi (SAN), urged the court to adjourn the case until the issue of legal representation is resolved. 

He said, “An issue of legal representation has just arisen in court this morning. The learned DPP has asked for an opportunity to reappraise the complainant’s complaint, and the state has to be given a chance to take that decision. It appears that nothing else can be done but to allow for a reasonable time for the state to decide”.

While responding to his submission, Jacobs pointed out to the court that four different lawyers had been engaged by the defendants “allegedly in his efforts to scuttle the hearing of the case.

This is not a case that the Lagos State Attorney-General can take over because the primary counts of the charge are based on federal laws. Section 211 of the 1999 Constitution limits the state AG to the takeover of state’s offences, and this power cannot be extended to Section 174, which is on federal crimes. 

“The Attorney-General’s letter to this court was written without hearing from us, and the purpose was to shield the defendant from appearing before this court, and when he is seized of the whole matter, he will change his mind. We are both fighting corruption.” 

After listening to the counsel from both sides, Justice Ijelu in a bench ruling said that the business of the court was for the arraignment of the defendants and that the prosecutor had told the court that the bench warrant could not be enforced because the defendant was out of the country.

He also noted that the defence counsel had informed the court that the defendant was in Dallas, United States of America, for a life-threatening ailment. 

The judge, however, held that the court has considered all submissions made by the lawyers, and it is of the view that the issue of representation by the prosecutor on record and that of the AG has become an issue and has to be resolved.

Justice Ijelu therefore adjourned the case to 29 January 2024, for the resolution of representation and prosecution of the defendants.

 

Eighteen-Eleven Media 

About The Author

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *