N787m Contract Scam: EFCC Protests UBEC Directors’ Move to Stall Trial
The stage was set for the commencement of the trial of four directors of Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, and three others on Thursday February 18 when the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC stormed the court with all six witnesses put together for the prosecution .The expectation was however dashed when the defence counsel came up with an application to stall the trial.
The prosecution counsel, Wahab Shittu who had arrived the court alongside the six witnesses ready for the commencement of the trial however expressed his shock to the trial judge, Justice Adamu Bello over a fresh plot by the defence counsel to delay the trial through an application seeking to quash the 64 count charge against the seven accused persons.
The EFCC had filed an amended 64 count charge against Prof. Bridget Omotunde Sokan, former Executive Secretary of UBEC and three directors including Molkat Manasseh Mutfwang, Michael Mtonga Aule and Dr Andrew Ekpunobi. Three other accused are Intermarkets USA; Intermarkets Nigeria Limited and Alexander John Cozma, a foreign contractor.
When the matter came up for hearing Thursday, the prosecution counsel told the court that counsel to the 4th, 5th and 6th accused( Intermarkets USA, Intermarkets Nig. Ltd and Alexander Cozma) had filed an application which was served on him in court to quash the charges. He said he was in court to proceed with the trial of the case as he has all his witnesses present in court. He descrided the defence application as an attempt to ambush justice.
Counsel to the 4th, 5th and the 6th accused persons, J. O Ogundeye confirmed the application to quash the case but expressed regret that the short notice was due to the fact that they applied to certify some of the documents attached to the application since February 2, 2010 but were not able to get approval until three days ago. He further stated that the prosecution counsel also served him with an additional proof of evidence which is about 100 pages and as such he needed to time to file a further affidavit.
Barrister I .k Ijomah, counsel to the 3rd accused alleged that he will also be applying for the charges to be quashed like the 4th 5th and 6th accused persons had proposed.
The counsel to the 7th accused person, Barrister B J Akomolafe in his own case alleged that the order given at the last sitting authorizing EFCC to return the passport of the 7th accused(Prof. Sokan) has not been complied with . However, counsel to EFCC, countered him and told the court that the anti-graft agency had requested for a written order from the court before the release of the passport.
Justice Adamu Bello agreed with the EFCC counsel stressing that a written order was required for the release of the passport. After a long deliberation among the counsel, a date was agreed upon after which Justice Bello till March 30, 2010, to take arguments on the fresh application. Apart from Prof Sokan and Intermarkets Nigeria Limited, the five other accused persons were first arraigned on May 19, 2009 on a 26 count charge but were later granted bail. The 64 amended charges were later filed against all the seven accused persons on December 10, 2009.
Part of the amended 64 count charge reads “That you (1) Molkat Manasseh Mutfwang 'm',(2) Michael Mtonga Aule (m) ,(3)Dr Andrew Nnamdi Ekpunobi(m),(4) Professor Bridget Sokan(f) sometimes in November,2005 at the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC),no 7,gwani street, Wuse zone 4 Abuja, within the jurisdiction of this honorable court acting as public servants and in those capacities to wit: The Deputy Director Planning ,Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC),the procurement officer, Universal Basic Education Commission(UBEC),director planning and information management, universal basic education commission(UBEC),the deputy executive secretary services universal basic education commission(UBEC),respectively, WITH INTENT TO DEFRAUD THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT OF NIGERIA, fraudulently obtained in favor of Intermarkets USA LLC, Intermarkets Nigeria ltd and Alexander John Cozma the sum of six hundred and thirty six million, two hundred and eighty four thousand, one hundred and sixty naira (N636,284,160.00) from universal basic education commission (UBEC),Abuja ,wrongfully purporting same to be meant for the supply of 109,440 pieces of plastic chairs/desks with the willful knowledge that chairs/desks remained banned by the Federal Government at all materials times and thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under section 1(1) (a) (b), 1(2) and (3) of Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act,2006.”| Article source