By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
An Abuja High Court sitting in Gudu, Monday, fixed 21 MayÂ to hear two separate applications filed before it by former House Committee Chairman on Power, Mr. Godwin Elumelu and his Senate counterpart, Nicholas Yahaya Ugbane, asking it to stay the criminal action initiated against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The duo, in their applications filed Monday, are praying the trial judge, Justice Adebukola Banjoko, to hands-off their case, pending the hearing and determination of an appeal they lodged at the Abuja division of the Court of Appeal.
Elumelu and Ugbane are before the appellate court to challenge the refusal of Justice Banjoko to quash the criminal charges against them, while contending that the proof of evidence tendered by the anti-graft agency at the trial court, failed to disclose neither a prima facie case nor a nexus linking them to the alleged crime.
EFCC is prosecuting them alongside seven others for allegedly diverting N5.2 billion from the coffers of the Rural Electrification Agency, REA.
The other accused persons are the Chairman, House Committee on Rural Development, Muhammed Jibo; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Power, Abdullahi Aliyu; Managing Director, REA, Sam Gekpe and four directors of the agencyâ€”Mr. Simon Nanley, Lawrence Orekoya, Abdul Salami Jahun and Kayode Oyedeji.
They are answering to a 287 criminal count charge bothering on fraud.
Meantime, Justice Banjoko, yesterday, warned that she would no longer entertain such applications after 21 May.
She noted that a year after the trial commenced, not even a single witness has been allowed to testify in the matter sequel to various frivolous applications by the accused persons.
Consequently, she has ordered all the accused persons to either align themselves with the application for stay filed by the lawmakers, or dissociate from it before the next adjourned date.
According to Justice Banjoko,â€œEntertaining nine separate applications seeking the same relief, in the same matter, will make mockery of the legal system and I will not do that.
â€œAm therefore ordering the other seven accused persons in this matter, to take time and look at the two separate motions already filed before the court and make a decision on it before the next adjourn dateâ€.