N2bn Bayelsa Fraud: Court Grants EFCC Witness Testimony
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Friday, February 25th, 2011 ruled that the testimony of the principal prosecution witness, in the on-going suit instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC against four Bayelsa state officials was admissible in law and valid.
The court at the resumed hearing of the case ruled that the witness, Mr Adebayo Adeniyi who was present in court and his testimony would henceforth be allowed. The EFCC had instituted a suit against four serving top officials including a commissioner in Bayelsa state over an alleged N2billion fraud. Specifically, they are facing trial on a six count charge bordering on misappropriation of public funds, diversion of money for personal use and money laundering to the tune of N2 billion. The officials are: Mr. Sylva Opuala-Charles, Commissioner of Finance; Francis Okokuro, Accountant General; Abot Clinton, Director of Treasury and Anthony Howells, Director of Finance. The presiding judge, Justice Donatus Okorowa, in his ruling, said that the testimony of the prosecution witness was very vital in the suit. He added that the law permits a witness to testify and as such the defense has no right whatsoever under the law to stop any witness from telling the court what transpired during the course of an investigation. He thereafter adjourned the case to March 11th and 18th, 2011 for continuation of trial.
At the last hearing of the case, EFCC prosecution counsel, Festus Keyamo opposed the objection raised by a defense counsel, S.I Ameh SAN, seeking to stop the principal prosecution witness, Adebayo Adeniyi from testifying. He anchored his objection on the premise that the testimony of the witness was important and crucial to the case. Keyamo also frowned against what the defense counsel said that the testimony of the witness was not part of what was contained in the proof of evidence which is before the court . The accused persons were originally arraigned at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja and have been attending sessions in respect of the six count charges preferred against them.
Count one of the six count charge reads: 'That you, Francis Okokuro, Abot T. Clinton, Ikobho Anthony Howells and Dr. Charles Sylva Osuala on or about the 22nd of January, 2010, at Abuja, within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court, converted the sum of N380, 000,000.00 (three Hundred and Eight Million Naira), property of the Bayelsa State Government, through the account of one Habibu Sani Maigidia, a Bureau De Change Operator with Account No. 221433478108, in Fin Bank, Plc, which sum you knew represented the proceeds of the said illegal act with the aim of concealing the nature of the proceeds of the said illegal act and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition Act) 2004 and also punishable under Section 14(1) of the same Act'.