At last, hearing in the case of Helen Aninye, Chizobam Ben-Okafor and their company, Pon-Specialized Services Limited, before Justice Olasumbo Goodluck of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja, will commence tomorrow, July 8, 2015.

The duo alongside their company were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on Friday, May 31, 2013 on an 18-count charge of conspiracy to obtain money by false pretence to the tune of N1, 413,507,951.50 (One Billion, Four Hundred and Thirteen Million, Five Hundred and Seven Thousand, Nine Hundred and Fifty One Naira and Fifty Kobo) from the Federal Government of Nigeria under the Petroleum Support Fund for the importation of 15,000 MT of Premium Motor Spirit. But a string of applications by the defence had delayed the commencement of trial.

 

When the case was called up today, July 7, the defence counsel, Solomon Edeh, representing Tayo Oyetibo, SAN, pleaded with the court for an adjournment.

 

According to him, “We have a problem! The lead counsel for the defence sent his apologies; so, we are asking for a new date.”

 

However, counsel to EFCC, Sir Steve Odiase, prayed the court to commence the trial of the accused, adding that he was ready to present his witnesses.

 

After listening to both counsels, Justice Goodluck expressed her displeasure over the needless delay in the commencement of trial and told the prosecution to ensure all his witnesses are present in court tomorrow, July 8.

 

It will be recalled that the arraignment of the accused persons was aborted on several occasions by the defence.

 

In November 2012, when the Commission first sought to arraign the accused persons, Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, told the court that there was no prima facie case against the accused persons, so they could not be arraigned.

 

Also, Adebola Sobowale, who held brief for Agbakoba, engaged the court with a series of applications and motions, praying the court not to entertain the charge against the accused.

On April 30, 2013, the defence counsel had filed a motion, praying the court to decline the prosecution leave to prefer charges against the accused persons and to strike out the 18- count charge.

 

Also, on May 13, 2013, the defendants filed another application praying the court to stay further proceedings on the matter and to quash the charge against them.

 

Wilson Uwujaren

Head, Media & Publicity

 

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