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Ibori: Anxiety in Asaba as Judge shifts ruling again

By Austin Ogwuda
Loyalists of the immediate past governor of Delta State, Chief James Ibori, were apprehensive yesterday as the much- expected ruling by the Federal High Court, Asaba, on the application filed by Ibori seeking to strike out the 170-count charge filed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) did not hold.

Some of the supporters on the court premises wore long faces and left almost immediately when it dawned on them that the court would not sit.

The ruling has, therefore, been adjourned till December 4.

Court officials confirmed to Vanguard  that the court would not sit, explaining that the judge was out of the town for  the Judges’ conferencein Abuja.

The judge, Justice Marcel Awokulehin, had at the last sitting on November 6, when he was expected to deliver the ruling, told the anxious capacity-filled court hall that it was ready, but he was going to defer it.

He then adjourned the ruling till yesterday.

The judge, who had been accused in many petitions, especially from a former Information Commissioner, Chief Edwin Clark, over the matter, on November 6, had noted that,“some issues came up between the last adjourned day and now”.

Although he did not expatiate, he added that he would like “to err on the side of caution.”

Lead counsel to Ibori, Mr. Ken Mozia, had pleaded with the judge to choose an earlier date, saying: “My Lord, the defendants have had this case hanging above their heads since 2007, like the sword of Damocles, so, it would be helpful to have the ruling earlier than the date.”

The case instituted by EFCC against Ibori resumed de novo (afresh) on April 27, before the newly-created Federal High Court, Asaba.

The fresh trial  was ordered by the Court of Appeal, Kaduna in a 21-page judgment delivered last December 19, nullifying all proceedings that had taken place before Justice Lawal Shuaibu of the Federal High Court, Kaduna.

At the commencement of the fresh trial, the court, which was supposed to have taken plea from the accused persons, in the suit No. FHC/ASB/1c/09 before Justice  Awokulehin  did not, due to the absence of the second accused, Okoronkwo, thereby stalling proceedings. But Ibori and the third accused, Chiedu Ebie, were present that day in court.


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