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PDP National Chairman, Vincent Ogbulafor
The embattled Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Vincent Ogbulafor, stayed away from the party's headquarters in Abuja on Monday as an Abuja High Court ordered him to appear before it on May 3.

A source in the party who defended Ogbulafor's absence from office, said he chose the option for fear that he might be arrested by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission.

The commission had dragged the PDP chairman to the Abuja High Court for allegedly defrauding the Federal Government of N170m in 2001.

Our correspondents report that the PDP chairman may also have gone into hiding to frustrate the attempt of the ICPC to serve him the writ of summons personally.

The anti-graft agency, in a ex-parte application sought the leave of the court to prefer charges against Ogbulafor and for him to be served with a writ of summons personally.

Our source in the PDP said that it was unusual for Ogbulafor to stay away from his office especially at a time he was expected to be busy preparing for the party's National Executive Council meeting scheduled for Tuesday (today).

He said, 'We were surprised that we did not see the chairman in office. It was very unusual of him to stay off in a day like today (Monday) when all members of the NWC were here to put finishing touches to tomorrow's NEC meeting.

'The reason might be because he feared that he could be arrested or could be harassed because of his corruption trial by the IC P .'

Our correspondents learnt that some governors' sympathetic to Ogbulafor, advised him to ensure that he was not detained ahead of the NEC meeting.

The plan, it was further gathered, was for Ogbulafor to come to the NEC meeting when almost all the PDP governors had arrived or even come with one of them.

Efforts made by one of our correspondents to reach Ogbulafor were unsuccessful as calls made to his mobile telephone indicated it was switched off.

However, his spokesperson, Mr. Chijoke Adindu, said he was not hiding.

Adindu said Ogbulafor was in his house and that there was no basis for him to go underground since he was yet to be served with court processes by the ICPC.

He said, 'How can he hide? He is at home. Remember that nobody has even charged him to court? He has not been served any paper. So, there is no basis for him to hide.'

When asked why his principal was not part of the officials of the party to co-ordinate preparations for the NEC meeting, he declined to respond.

An Abuja High Court had early on Monday ordered Ogbulafor to appear before it on May 3 to take his plea for allegedly defrauding the Federal Government of N170m while in office as the Minister of Special Duties in 2001.

Justice Isaq Bello gave the order while ruling on an ex-parte application brought by the ICPC through its counsel, Mr. Paul Bassey.

In his ruling, the judge ordered that Ogbulafor and others charged along with him should appear before him for their arraignment. He directed that the charges be served on them personally.

The co-accused are Mr. Emeka Ebilah, Secretary/Member of the National Economic Intelligence Committee; and Mr. Emmanuel Bosah, Director, Budget Implementation, Federal Ministry of Finance .

Bello said, 'The accused persons are hereby ordered to appear before the court on May 3. The prosecution is at liberty to apply for an order of arrest and detention where they are in doubt that the accused persons will not be available for trial.'

The ICPC had last week filed a criminal charge at the court against Ogbulafor.

However, the judge turned down a request by counsel to Ogbulafor, Mr. Joe Kyari-Gadzama (SAN), to get the court to stay proceedings on the matter.

Bello overruled him on the grounds that the matter before the court was for the ex-parte application brought by the anti-graft agency for leave to prefer charges against the accused persons.

A copy of the charge obtained by our correspondent showed that Ogbulafor and his co-accused committed the offences sometimes in March 2001.

Count one of the charges indicated 'That Ogbulafor , Ebilah and Bosah in the month of March 2001, fraudulently received through a proxy, Henry Ikoh, the sum of N82,631,03.41 from the Federal Government of Nigeria in the name of a company Henchriko Nigeria Limited as payment for a fictitious contract purportedly executed for the Federal Government.'

The action, according to the ICPC is contrary to Section 19 of the ICPC Act 2000.

Ogbulafor, Ebilah and Bosah were also accused of conspiracy to use NEIC contract verification panel to verify a fictitious contract purportedly executed on behalf of the Federal Government by Henchriko from which they received N82m.

The PDP chairman was also accused of using his position as Minister of Special Duties to confer corrupt advantage upon himself by fraudulently receiving from the Federal Government N11.5m as payment for a fictitious contract.

The said money was allegedly received through a proxy, Chris Abuajah, in the name of a company DHL Consultants.

In count five, the three accused persons were charged with using their positions to confer corrupt advantage on themselves by fraudulently receiving from the Federal Government through a proxy, Sunday Nmesirianye, the sum of N13. 7m in the name of Emeprol Co. Limited.

Similarly, Ogbulafor and the two accused persons were charged with receiving fraudulently the sum of N6.2m from the Federal Government through a proxy, Chekwas Obinna, using the name of a company Chekwas Industries Limited as payment for fictitious contract executed on behalf of the Federal Government.

Out of the 16 count- charges filed against the suspects, Ogbulafor would answer to 12.