COURT URGED TO STAY PROCEEDINGS ON EX-WEMA BANK CHAIR, EFCC'S SUIT
By Abdulwahab Abdulah, BARTHOLOMEW MADUKWE & Arji Donald
LAGOS-Former chairman of Wema Bank Plc, Alhaji Olapade Mohammed and a director in AKS Steel Nigeria Limited, Sanni Mohammed, have asked a Federal High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, to stay proceedings in the charge against them by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
They also want the court to declare that they need not appear in court in person to take their pleas.
Following the argument by lead counsel for the defence, Mr. Bode Olanipekun, who contended that they had also filed notices of appeal against the decision of the court to order the arrest of the accused persons, the trial judge, Justice Stephen Adah, adjourned till March 15, to hear the application for stay of proceedings.
The court had on Tuesday, threatened to issue a warrant of arrest against the accused persons, if they refuse to appear before the court, yesterday, to their take their plea on the criminal charge against them by the anti-graft agency.
Defence counsel had urged the court to quash the demand for the physical appearance of the accused persons in court, but the prosecution counsel, Mr. Steve Odiase, opposed same, contending that the application to quash their arraignment was incompetent. He urged the court to discountenance the application, citing section 2 (10) of the Criminal Prosecution Act.
The court in a short ruling had said: 'This application is strange. When a charge is filed, it behooves on the accused to appear in court, and if they are contesting anything, it will be after their plea had been taken. If the accused refused to appear in court, I will order their arrest.'
EFCC had preferred a 34-count amended charge against the duo and others at large for conspiring among themselves to commit felony and laundering of funds belonging to Joint Venture Company, AKS Steel Nigeria Limited. The offence is said to be contrary to section 14 (1) of the money-laundering (prohibition) Act 2004 and punishable under section 17 of the same Act.
The accused persons were alleged to have transferred large sums of monies without board's authorization at different times through a company known as 3 Brothers Concept Nigeria Limited to India via Dubai between January 2006 and August 2009.