Tobi Soniyi in Abuja
Failure of the prosecution to serve a former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Godsday Orubebe and three others charged before an Abuja High Court for alleged diversion of N2 billion stalled the arraignment of the suspects yesterday.
Orubebe, Oludare Lawrence Alaba, Ephraim Tewolde Zeri (Director of Contracts) and Gitto Costruzioni Generali Nigeria Limited were accused, in a five-count charge, of alleged complicity in the diversion of about N2 billion meant for the dualisation of Section IV of the East-West Road.
The charge marked: CR/265/2016 was filed by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The charge borders on alleged corruption, diversion of funds and perjury.
Orubebe was accused of circumventing a Federal Executive Council (FEC) approval for the dualisation of the Eket-Oron Road, part of the East-West Road which runs from Edo to Bayelsa States, by allegedly instructing the contractor, Gitto Construction, to rehabilitate it instead.
Orubebe and others are also charged with conferring undue advantage on the construction firm when they caused the money meant for compensating residents whose properties were marked for demolition to be paid to Gitto.
The ICPC alleged that N2,320,686,826 approved as compensation for owners of properties that were to be demolished to make way for the dualisation of the road was paid to the contractor instead of the beneficiaries.
The ex-minister is also accused of making false statements to the ICPC claiming that the decision to rehabilitate the road rather than dualise it was taken after he had left office as the Minister of Niger Delta.
When the case was called yesterday before Justice Olukayode Adeniyi, prosecution lawyer, Osuobeni Akponimisingha, told the court that the ICPC was yet to effect service of the charge on the defendants.
He sought adjournment to enable the prosecution serve the defendants with the charge, a request the judge granted and adjourned to August 30 for arraignment.
The former minister had denied any wrong doing. He said the contract was not awarded during his tenure as minister.
Orubebe is currently being tried before the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) on a one-count charge of non-declaration of a property he allegedly acquired in Abuja while serving as a minister.
Trial had been concluded in the case before the CCT and judgment reserved.