27th July, 2011
Two of the accused persons standing trial before a Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on an alleged financial scam bordering on the N850 million plastic furniture supply contract awarded by the Universal Basic Education Commission, UBEC, on Tuesday approached the court to seek for permission to travel abroad.
One of them, Mr. Alexander Cozman is the owner of Intermarkets USA, the company to which the contract of supply of plastic furniture was awarded.
In his application, Mr. Cozman stated that he requires the court’s permission to travel to Oregon, United States of America, to attend to a court proceeding in which he is a party.
He averred that he deposited his travell documents with the court as part of the conditions attached to his bail by the court and pleaded for the temporary release of his international passport to enable him proceed to the U.S. to attend the court proceedings slated to commence on 31 August.
In opposition to the application, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, represented by Mr. Wahab Shittu, implored the court to reject the application, noting that it was a ploy for Mr. Cozman who is a foreigner to abscond and abandon his trial.
Mr. Shittu stated that he wrote to the US court and found out that Mr. Cozman was the person who instituted the case himself, as a smokescreen to aid his abscondment contrary to his claims to the effect that he is a defendant in the case.
He also told the court that the foreigner misinformed the court by stating that the matter is scheduled to come up on 31 August which he discovered from the e-mail response to his enquiries from the US court to be a lie as the matter is scheduled for 12 September, 2011.
He argued that the trial of the accused persons who looted funds belonging to the Federal Government through the fraudulent award of the plastic furniture contract, had reached the conclusion part and urged the court not to jeopardise the progress made so far by granting the application as that will afford Mr. Cozman the opportunity to abandon his trial.
The anti-graft agency also opposed a similar application made by the former Director in charge of accounts at the UBEC, Prof Soakan who also sought the court’s permission to travel to the UK to take care of her grand daughter to enable her daughter complete her post-graduate studies in the United Kingdom.
Shittu observed that the application brought by the ex-director who is standing trial alongside Mr. Cozman is laughable, noting that there is extensive child care support in the UK available to the accused person’s daughter to employ for her child while she attends to her educational pursuit and urged the court not to be persuaded to truncate a very serious trial already nearing completion on such flimsy and laughable excuse.
The trial judge, Justice Adamu Bello, adjourned till Wednesday 3 August for his ruling.
By Nnamdi Felix / Abuja