Former Kogi State governor, Abubakar Audu
By Tobi Soniyi
The Supreme Court Friday dismissed an appeal by former Kogi State governor, Abubakar Audu, challenging his trial for alleged embezzlement of N4 billion.
Audu was originally arraigned on December 1, 2006, on an 80-criminal count charge of fraud and embezzlement of public fund, to the tune of over N4 billion, while he was governor of Kogi State between 1999 and 2003.
Part of the setback suffered by the case was the filling of several applications for stay of proceedings at the high court pending the final determination of the appeal.
Audu had on December 12, 2011, through his lead counsel, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, filed the stay of proceedings motion supported by 11-paragraph affidavit.
This was 26 clear days after the Supreme Court of Nigeria on November 16, 2011, struck out a similar application he filed on January 24, 2011.
It will be recalled that Justice Husseini, in his ruling of June 10, 2011, had held that since the matter was starting afresh "the starting point was the re-arraignment of the accused (ex- governor Abubakar Audu) by taking his plea afresh.
But Audu disagreed and filed an appeal. He also filed an application for a stay of the trial.
A third stay of proceeding which motion, the accused filed, was in relation to his appeal before the Court of Appeal.
"The case at the Court of Appeal is attacking the jurisdiction of the court to re-arraign the accused person; that motion is pending. The appellate courts are obliged to take these cases separately and determine its merit and demerit, no matter how frivolous it is. Like Pontius Pilate, wash your hands off until the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court concludes this case", Ozekhome told the court.
Five justices, led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, sat in chambers and came up with their ruling, a copy of which was presented before Justice Saidu Tanko Husseini of High Court of Kogi State on December 9, 2011 when the case came up.
But Ozekhome had argued against the presentation of the ruling by prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, as he said that in his about 30 years experience at the bar, he was unaware of such a legal jargon as "sitting in chambers".
He described the Supreme Court's ruling as a possible forgery which he must verify.
The judge obliged his prayers and adjourned till December 22, 2011. But three days after, (December 12, 2011), he filed another stay of proceedings at the high court.
Count one of the 80 count charges reads "that you, Prince Abubakar Audu on or about 6th day of Feb 2001 at Kogi State Judicial Div. by false pretence and with intent to fraud obtained from Kogi State Directorate of Rural Development, the sum of N6, 263.000 purporting same to be part payment made to Leo Flinch Nig. Ltd in respect of a contract allegedly awarded by Kogi State Directorate of Rural Development to the said Leo Flinch Nig. Ltd and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 1 (3) of the Advance Fee fraud and other related offences Act 13 of 1995 as amended by Act No 62 of 1999".