By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Wednesday, adjourned trial of the immediate past Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, who is facing 18-count corruption charge, to July 8.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo shifted the hearing date, owing to the absence of a prosecuting lawyer from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, which filed the charge.
The anti-graft agency had on March 23, arraigned the former HoS and eight others over their alleged involvement in money laundering, Duty Tour Allowance (DTA) fraud.
In the charge marked FHC/ABJ/CR/60/2020, EFCC, further accused the ex-HoS of collecting kickbacks on contracts, while she was in service.
According to the prosecution, aside collecting Estacodes and ticket fees for journeys not embarked on, the erstwhile HoS, collaborated with her co-defendants to disguise the genuine ownership of funds they diverted into accounts of various private companies.
Other defendants that were also arraigned over the alleged fraud that was to the tune of about N500million, included a civil servant who was identified as the alter ego of some of the companies, Garba Umar, as well as Oyo-Ita’s personal assistant, Ubong Okon Effiok.
Others are the six indicted companies; Frontline Ace Global Services Ltd, Asanaya Projects Limited, Slopes International Limited, Good deal International Limited, U & U Global Services Limited and Prince Mega Logistics Limited.
They all pleaded not guilty to the charge, even as the court granted them bail pending the determination of the charge against them.
Meanwhile, at the resumed proceeding on the matter on Wednesday which was the day slated for the commencement of hearing, EFCC’s lawyer, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, failed to appear in court.
Oyo-Ita’s lawyer, Mr. Paul Erokoro, SAN, told the court that he was not aware of any reason for the absence of the prosecution counsel.
He, therefore, requested for the matter to be adjourned to a later date, an application that was supported by counsel to all the other defendants.
“My lord since we do not know why they are not here, we ask for a fairly long adjournment to give the prosecution time subject to the court’s convenience. We also ask that they be issued hearing notices,” Erokoro submitted.
In his ruling, trial Justice Taiwo stressed that the case was not classified as urgent and not also time-bound.
He acceded to the adjournment request and deferred hearing on the case till July 8.