Uyo — Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, sitting in Maitama, Abuja, has adjourned to June 18, 2018 for the arraignment of a former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke, and eight others over their alleged involvement in the sale of Oil Prospecting License, OPL 245.
The others are Dan Etete, a former Minister of Petroleum Resources; Aliyu Abubakar; Ralph Wetzels; Casula Roberto; Pujatti Stefen;, Burrafati Sebestiano and Malabu Oil and Gas Limited.
This was contained in a statement made available to leadership by Head, Media & Publicity at the Commission, Wilson Uwujaren.
According to the statement, the defendants are to be prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) for their alleged complicity to defraud the federal government to the tune of N1.1bn in a suspicious oil block deal.
The statement reads in part: "Specifically, Adoke was said to have played a major role in the fraudulent deal that saw to the transfer of ownership of OPL 245 to two multinational oil companies - Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company and Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited.
"It would be recall that on April 3, 2017, the EFCC, through its counsel, Johnson Ojogbane, approached the court, requesting to be guided on whether or not to issue an arrest warrant against Adoke "as the former AGF and some of the defendants are residing outside the shores of Nigeria, making the service of writ of summons on them difficult".
But, Justice Tsoho opined that "once a person has been arraigned before a court and is attempting to escape, then it becomes necessary to issue a warrant of arrest. But in this case, Adoke has not been arraigned; the matter is still being investigated".
The matter was later adjourned to June 13, but again, the arraignment could not hold due to the absence of Adoke in court. It was then adjourned to October 26, 2017.
Subsequently, when the matter came up on October 26, 2017, Ojogbane informed the court that "the process of getting the defendants to appear in court to face arraignment has been very cumbersome". He further assured that "the process would be concluded very soon".
Meanwhile, Justice Hussein Baba-Yusuf of the Federal Capital Territory High Court sitting in Maitama, Abuja, has adjourned further hearing in the criminal charge of diversion of $2.1billion involving former Sokoto State Governor, Attahiru Dalhatu Bafarawa, his son, Sagir Attahiru and their family company, Dalhatu Investment Limited, to March 22, 2018.
The said money was part of funds earmarked for purchase of arms to fight Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east.
The defendants had sought to be separately tried from former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd), who was joined as co-defendant in the suit, to ensure speedy trial. But, the application was refused by Justice Baba-Yusuf on October 19, 2017.
Dissatisfied, the defendants' legal team led by Kayode Olatoke, SAN, proceeded to the Court of Appeal, urging it to order the trial court to separate the case.
Olatoke argued that, "the applicants' trial if separated from Dasuki's would guarantee their constitutional rights to a speedy trial within reasonable time in line with Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution".
At the last sitting, the EFCC through its counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, maintained its objection to the application.
According to Jacobs, "Bafarawa, his son and their family company, Dalhatu Investment Limited, were properly joined with Dasuki, Bashiru Yuguda and Shuaibu Salisu for their joint roles in the diversion of $2.1billion arms funds."
He stated that Dalhatu investment owned by Bafarawa and his son was the receiver of the alleged stolen funds.
The appeal failed, prompting the defendants to proceed to the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, at the resumed trial today, A. O. Afolabi, counsel to EFCC, told Justice Baba-Yusuf that the case is for trial "and we are ready to go on as our witness is in court".
However, counsel to the 2nd defendant, Adeola Adedipe, drew the attention of the judge to the effect that, "there is a pending application at the Supreme Court of which judgment is reserved for March 2, 2018" He urged the court to wait for the outcome of the appeal at the apex court, while asking for a date after Supreme Court's judgment.