Absence of Witness Stalls Trial of Ex-Oyo Gov, Two Others

0

By Kemi Olaitan in Ibadan

An Ibadan High Court presided over by Justice Olakekan Owolabi Wednesday adjourned the trial of former governor of Oyo State, Adebayo Alao-Akala, and two others, for alleged fraud to May 2, 2019 due to the absence of the prosecution witness who was expected to give evidence in support of the 11-count charge preferred against the accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The judge granted the EFCC’s request for adjournment after its counsel, Dr. Ben Ubi, told the court that the second witness, Mr. Abdulrasheed Bawa, who is also the current Head of Operations in the commission’s Port Harcourt Zonal Office, was unable to make it to the court.

The former governor is standing trial alongside the Commissioner for Local Government and Chieftaincy Matters during his tenure, Senator Hosea Agboola, and an Ibadan-based businessman, Mr. Femi Babalola.

The charge against them border on conspiracy, awarding a contract without budgetary provision, obtaining by false pretence, acquiring property with money derived from an illegal act and concealing the ownership of such property, among others.

Among the offences, according to the information on the court papers, was a road contract worth N8.5 billion, which Alao-Akala awarded between 2007 and 2009 to Pentagon Engineering Services, Babalola’s company, allegedly without budgetary provision.

The said contract was executed on behalf of the 33 local governments in the state.

Also in the charge is the allegation that the former governor ordered the supply of drilling machines on behalf of the 33 local governments in the state to the tune of N3.5 billion.

Apart from the allegation of conspiring with Agboola to withdraw N2.9 billion from the Oyo State Local Government Joint Account, the anti-graft agency is equally prosecuting the former governor for allegedly illegally acquiring some property on Old Bodija road, off Rotimi Williams road, when he was in office.

The offences were said to contravene Section 22 (4) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act and Section 1 (18) of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act.

The case was originally filed in 2011, and have witnessed series of adjournments due to the volume of evidences and witnesses prepared to reinforce the prosecution’s argument.

Though, the court was to continue with the trial on Wednesday, but could not since the witness billed for cross-examination was not present.

Ubi told the court that the witness was unable to attend the proceeding because he was involved in election duties.

“My lord the reason our witness is not in court today is because he is involved in the election processes in Rivers State,” he said, praying the court for another date.

The counsel to the first and third defendants, Hakeem Afolabi (SAN), and his counterpart holding brief for the second defendant, Richard Ogunwole (SAN), did not oppose the prayer.

The presiding judge then adjourned the matter to May 2, 2019 for continuation of trial as he ordered the prosecution to make its witnesses available at the next date.