8 January 2013

Cameroon: Lebialem Road Fund - Contractor Attempts Embezzling FCFA 50 Million

The case has been adjourned for January 23 to respect certain criminal procedures.

The second open court session of the case between the People of Cameroon and the State of Cameroon against Marcus Ndumbe Mbessa, Charles Etah Njoh and the enterprise "Njoh and Sons Distribution" took place on January 8 at the Special Criminal Court in Yaounde. Because the first accused, Marcus Ndumbe Mbessa, was appearing at the Special Criminal Court for the first time, the Head of the penal of Judges hearing the case, Justice Abednego Bea Kala adjourned the case for January 23.

The Representative of the Legal Department for the Prosecution, Justice Richard Wanki said Marcus Ndumbe, a civil servant, was the engineer charged with supervising a road project being executed by Charles Etah Njoh. Justice Wanki further explains that Marcus Ndumbe took interest in the project by receiving some funds from the contractor and assisting him in executing part of the project, instead of focusing on his supervisory role. The law expects that an engineer who is civil servant supervising a project, should be neutral in the course of executing his duties. It is alleged that Charles Etah Njoh attempted to misappropriate public funds to the sum of over FCFA 50 million meant to carry out repairs along a road in the Lebialem Sub-Division. Charles Etah Njoh reportedly executed only 36 per cent of the work and insisted that all the money for the project be paid to him.

According to Justice Richard Wanki, the court session went on well because all the accused persons were present. But hearing did not proceed because the mandatory provisions of Section 415 of the Criminal Procedure Code which provides 10 days before a hearing, and that the accused be interrogated by a judge in chambers so as to identify him, find out whether he has briefed his lawyers and also to find out if he has been served with the decision of an examining magistrate committing him for trial. The adjournment, Justice Wanki said, was for the mandatory preliminaries to the hearing of a criminal case be complied with.

The case was also adjourned because most of the lawyers defending the accused are from the South West Region (West of the Mungo) and it is not in their practice to present letters of constitutions as it is the situation East of the Mungo. Before the next hearing, the lawyers should have prepared their letters of constitutions which indicate that they have been properly informed by their client to appear before the court for the case at hand.

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