CHARGE SHEET STALLS UGBANE, ELUMELU'S TRIAL
Following the failure of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission [EFCC] to serve copies of the fresh 158 count charge it preferred against the Chairman, Senate Committee on Power, Senator Nicholas Ugbane, his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Ndudi Elumelu and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Power, Dr. Abdulahi Aliyu and 27 other accused persons was yesterday stalled.
Although Elumelu and Aliyu were in court to enter their plea, the trial could not proceed as the trial Judge, Garba Umar adjourned till June 23, 2009 to enable EFCC serve the charge sheet on all other accused persons and consequently compel their appearance.
The other accused persons are the Managing Director of Rural Electrification Agency(REA), Samuel Gekpe; Simon Nanle, Lawrence Orekoya, Abdulsamad Jahun, Kayode Oyedeji, Igwe Paulinus and Jibo Mohammed, who are held in Kuje Prisons having failed to meet the bail conditions imposed on them earlier on.
Elumelu's counsel, Lateef Fagbemi, said the adjournment was unavoidable because under the Criminal Procedure Code, all accused persons charged for complicity in a criminal offence must all be present in court to enter their plea.
But he urged the commission to take deliberate and conscientious steps towards serving all relevant persons with the charge, so as to facilitate the commencement of definite trial.
“You can see that my client is in court, he came in voluntarily on his own to answer to the charge. We are anxious to see that trial commences because we want it disposed off so that our client can concentrate on the serious business of law making for the good of the nation”, Fagbemi stated.
Yet, he wondered the rationale behind EFCC's decision to run two trials against the accused persons.
“It is strange to me that while we are facing trial at the Abuja High Court, EFCC will go ahead to prefer another charge before the Federal High Court on the same set of facts”, he added.
Last week, the commission had preferred a fresh 158 count charge against Ugbane, Elumelu, Aliyu, seven officials of the REA for their alleged breach of the Procurement Act in awarding contracts worth over N5 billion to 20 companies, which they charged along with them.