REA Scam: EFCC Accuses Elumelu, Ugbane, Others Of Plot To Delay Trial
San Francisco, May 21, (THEWILL) - The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has accused the senate committee chairman on power, Senator Nicholas Ugbane and his House of Representatives counterpart, Hon. Ndidi Elumelu, who are being prosecuted over the N5.2 billion Rural Electrification Agency, REA, contract scam, of deliberate moves to delay and prolong their trial.
The federal lawmakers and seven others are facing a 130-count charge bordering on breach of due process, criminal conspiracy, diversion and misappropriation of public funds before an FCT high court, Abuja.
The trio of Elumelu, Ugbane and Hon. Mohammed Jibo on May 10, 2010, had filed a motion praying the court for an order to stay further proceedings in the case pending the determination of their appeal before the Court of Appeal in Abuja.
The six other accused who also aligned with the request for stay of proceedings include Engr. Samuel Ibi Gekpe, Dr. Abdullahi Aliyu, Simon Kirdi Nanle, Engr. Lawrence Kayode Orekoya, Abdulsamad Garba Jahun and Barrister Kayode Oyedeji.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Friday May 21, 2010, Barrister C.N. Aloke, counsel to Elumelu told the court that the stay of execution is necessary as the outcome of the appeal will determine the trial at the lower court.
He further added that the prosecution would not have anything to suffer should the court grant the prayers of his client.
But prosecution counsel, Godwin Obla, urged the judge to disregard and dismiss the prayers of the defence as contained in their motion of stay of proceedings saying the application is lacking in merit
Obla said, "Respectfully, we submit that the application brought by the accused persons/applicants is in direct contravention of the provisions of a statute. He stated that it is trite that an application for stay of proceedings in a criminal matter commenced by the EFCC is statutorily prohibited.
He said that Section 40 of the EFCC Act, 2006 provides that "subject to the provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, an application for stay of proceedings in respect of any criminal matter brought before the High Court shall not be entertained until judgment is delivered by the High Court."
Obla also stated that "for a party to request for stay of proceedings in a criminal case initiated in a lower court requires scrutiny. It is a serious matter, in particular when it involves allegation of crime against the state and issue of innocence of an accused. The request is grave and fundamental, and any disruption of the case bordering on criminal allegation should not be granted."
The prosecution counsel further stated that delay in the trial of the accused persons is as a result of the multitude interlocutory applications filed at different times by the accused persons which have led to several adjournments.
"The grounds of appeal raised by the 3rd, 8th and 9th Accused Persons/ Applicants are not likely to succeed as they are predicated on same grounds upon which this Honourable Court dismissed their application to quash the charge preferred against them, in its ruling of 10th November 2009 and 4th March 2010," he added.
He further submitted that the trial of the accused persons is not a res capable of being preserved and cannot constitute special or exceptional circumstances. "We further submit that the interest of justice will be served if this application is refused."
It would be recalled that the Judge had on November 10, 2009, thrown out, an application by Senator Ugbane seeking to quash the charges against him while a similar move by Elumelu was equally rejected by the court on March 4 2010.
EFCC, had on Friday 30th October, 2009, preferred a fresh 130 count-charge against Hon. Godwin Elumelu, Senator Nicholas Ugbane and seven others at the FCT High Court, Abuja for defrauding the government to the tune of over N5.2 billion in the Rural Electrification Agency project.
The nine accused persons who were first arraigned by the EFCC on Thursday 14 May, 2009, have also been separated in the fresh charges. The three lawmakers are jointly facing a 62-count charge while the other six accused are jointly facing a 68-count charge.
Justice Banjoko adjourned the case to June 24, 2010, to rule on the application to stay proceedings pending the determination of the appeal at the Court of Appeal, Abuja.