By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – An Abuja High Court sitting at Apo, on Tuesday, struck out six-count charge the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, preferred against former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe over his alleged complicity in a N1.97billion contract fraud.
Trial Justice Olukayode Adeniyi further discharged and acquitted the defendants, after the charge was withdrawn by the prosecution.
Th charge was withdrawn on a day the court earlier gave the anti-graft agency to produce its witnesses to establish that Orubebe, who served under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, diverted funds meant for the compensation of owners of properties on Eket Urban section of the East-West Road in Eket, Akwa Ibom State.
Other defendants in the charge were an Assistant Director at the Ministry of Niger-Delta Affairs, Mr. Oludare Davis Alaba, and the Director of Contracts, Gitto Costruzioni Generali Nig. Ltd., Mr. Ephraim Towede Zari.
However, shortly after the defendants were arraigned, the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, in a letter to Chairman of the ICPC, with Ref No. DPPA/MNDA/345/16, confirmed that the N1,965,576,153.46, which Orubebe allegedly diverted, “has not been expended, but is awaiting further contract decisions and directives from the Ministry of Niger-Delta Affairs”.
According to the AGF in the letter that was signed by the Director of Public Prosecution and dated December 16, 2016: “In view of the above, the basis for the prosecution of the accused persons for misappropriation does not exist and thus, further prosecution cannot be justified”.
Though ICPC counsel, Mr. Ekoi Akpos, applied to withdraw the charge, he however insisted that the decision was not premised on the letter from the AGF.
More details later.