N10bn Pension theft: Lawyer's ill-health stalls trial

Justice symbol

Justice A. A Ademola of Nigeria’s Federal High Court, Abuja sent the quartet of Dr Shuaibu Sani Teidi, Omoefe Eric Uduesegbe, Aliyu Bello and Abdullahi Omeiza all former employees of the Pension office of the Head of Federal Civil Service, to Kuje prison as their trial was stalled by the absence of Adewale Adegoke, defence counsel to the second accused person on ground of ill health.

The accused persons are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for defrauding the pension office to the tune of N10, 080, 006, 276.00 (Over Ten Billion Naira).

At the resumed hearing of the case, prosecution counsel, Godwin Obla, SAN, said “it is not his intention to belittle the counsel’s claim of ill health but stated that the court is bound by rules and these cases are to be dealt with expeditiously”.

The prosecution counsel made reference to section 6 paragraph D of Federal High Court Practice Direction 2013 “ no adjournment can be granted on a fixed date for hearing”, Paragraph E of the same section states also “ If a counsel is indisposed on issues of ill health, it is mandated to ensure that the counsel of requisite professional experience and knowledge of the issue is in court to continue with the matter” the section also avails an accused only two adjournments in the course of a trial.

The accused who was ready but needs the presence of counsel, asked for adjournment at his instance which made the prosecution to bring to the notice of the court that the 2nd accused has exhausted his 2 adjournment under the rules of the practice direction of the purpose of the entirety of the case.

The case has been adjourned to February 17, 21 and 24, 2014 for continuation of trial and they are to remain in Kuje prison until their bail is finally determined.

In related development, the trial within trial of Aliyu Bello and Abdullahi Omeiza on a five count charge before Justice Ademola of the Federal High Court, Abuja started with four witnesses present Richard Ogberaga, Mustapha Gadanya, Rouqayya Ibrahim and Mustapha Yusuf who all stated that they never made any promise to the accused before their statements were taken.

Related News

The first witness Richard Ogberaga told the court how he came across the accused through a pension reform task team that was set up by the Head of Service to investigate issues of fraud in the civil service, in the course of the investigation, a lot of irregularities were found especially in terms of ghost pensioners which led to investigation and arrest of Haruna Maigida and Abdullahi Omeiza.

Haruna Maigida confessed to have been put on a nominal roll by Aliyu Bello and money collected was given to him. As they were about inviting the first accused, the first accused Aliyu Bello came to the office to secure bail of the second accused Abdullahi Omeiza which led to officially inviting him. He was then given an EFCC statement form to fill.

Before taking his statement, the cautionary word was written on the form the accused understood it, signed and voluntarily made his statement without handcuffs or in chains in an open environment with other officers attending to their work schedules.

The statement was made without giving any promise on anything, or threatening him and did not influence inflict any violence on the accused. He gave four statements and all of the statements were voluntarily. Statement dated November 1st 2010 was admitted for identification as ID AB1, November 2 2010 ID AB2, November 4 2010 ID AB3 and December 7 2010.

Mr Mustapha Gadanya gave a similar statement to the first witness and also presented additional statements which were taken as ID AB5, 6 and 7 admitted for identification. The Third witness Ruqayyatu Ibrahim also said her job was statement taking and the accused were never threatened or promised before taking their statement and her additional statement were marked for identification as ID AB 8-11a&b.

The fourth witness Mustapha Yusuf stated to the court that all he did was take the statement of the accused. His statement was marked as ID AB 12 for identification to which the Defence counsel objected to none of the statements admitted for identification

The case has been adjourned to February 13, 2014 for continuation of trial within trial.