Former Chairman, of the Senate Committee on Power, Nicholas Yahaya Ugbane; his former House of Representatives counterpart, Ndudi Elumelu; and Jibo Mohammed, are to be re-arraigned before a Federal Capital Territory High Court in a case of breach of due process, criminal conspiracy, diversion, and misappropriation of N5.2 billion in public funds.
The men, who are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), are expected to make a fresh plea before Justice Mudashiru Oniyangi of the FCT High Court in Abuja on February 1, 2013.
The commission said in a statement today that their re-arraignment follows the re-assignment of the case following the withdrawal of former trial judge, Justice Adebunkola Banjoko.
Ugbane and his co- accused were initially arraigned on October 30, 2009, on a 130 count charge together with six senior officials of the Rural Electrification Agency. The charges were subsequently separated with the lawmakers jointly facing a 62-count charge and the other six accused facing a 68-count charge.
At today’s session, however, the accused persons could not be re-arraigned owing to the absence of the third accused, Mohammed. He was neither represented nor was a reason made available for his absence. As a result, the prosecution counsel, Onjefu Obe, asked the court for a bench warrant to effect his arrest.
According to Obe, “When an accused person in a criminal case as in the one at hand fails to appear and nothing to show why he was not in court, irrespective of who the person is, the prosecutor has the right to ask the court to issue a bench warrant against such accused for him to come and explain why he was not present at the court”.
But Defence counsel, Mr. Ikwueto (SAN) who appeared for the second accused, offered an explanation in favour of Jibo, saying that the third accused person was not aware of today’s adjournment. “Since the date was not communicated to him, it would be wrong for the court to issue a bench warrant against him,” he said.
After ascertaining that the third accused may not have been informed about the new date, the judge asked the EFCC counsel whether he was going ahead with his earlier application to which Mr. Obe replied: “EFCC is not in court solely to prosecute but to promote justice”.
He thereafter withdrew the application for a bench warrant on the third accused person.
The case was adjourned to 1 February 1, 2013.