Alleged N570m Fraud: Court Halts Trial of Oyo-Ita Indefinitely

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Accuses EFCC of forum shopping

By Alex Enumah

The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday adjourned indefinitely the corruption trial of former Head of Service of the Federation (HoSF), Mrs. Winifred Oyo-Ita, and others over abuse of court’s process by the prosecution.

Oyo-Ita and eight others are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on alleged fraud, money laundering among others to the tune of N570 million.

They pleaded not guilty to the charges.

However, the trial judge yesterday decided to suspend their trial indefinitely over what he described as contemptuous act by the EFCC.

The Commission had gone to another court to obtain an ex-parte order for the freezing of the bank accounts of the 4th, 5th and 6th defendants in the same matter before him.

Justice Taiwo, who described the EFCC’s conduct as “forum shopping” aimed at getting a favourable court judgment, said the anti-corruption agency’s conduct was reprehensible and condemnable and must not be allowed in the interest of justice.

He accordingly ordered a stay of proceedings in the trial until the EFCC and its lawyer “do the needful” by withdrawing the application before the other court.

The judge however did not fix any date for court for resumption of the matter.

The EFCC had filed an ex-parte motion with suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/1202/2020 before Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo for the freezing of the bank accounts of 4th, 5th and 6th defendants in the alleged N570 million money laundering charge preferred against the ex-HoS and others, even when the matter is ongoing before Justice Taiwo.

Oyo-Ita is the 1st defendant in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/60/2020 before Taiwo.

While Frontline Ace Global Services Limited and Asanaya Projects are 2nd and 3rd, Garba Umar, and his two companies; Slopes International Limited and Gooddeal Investment Limited are 4th, 5th and 6th defendants respectively.

Ubong Okon Effiok and his two companies; U & U Global Services Limited and Prince Mega Logistics Limited are 7th, 8th and 9th defendants, respectively.

The defence lawyers had urged the court to discontinue the trial until the EFCC’s counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, withdraws the application before Justice Giwa-Ogunbanjo, describing the act as an abuse of court process.

Also Justice Taiwo had on February 11, threatened to return the case file of Oyo-Ita’s trial to the Chief Judge, Justice John Tsoho, for reassignment