From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court on Wednesday ordered an indefinite pause to proceedings in the ongoing trial of the former Head of Service (HoS), Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, and others.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo, who adjourned the trial sine dine (indefinitely) was angered by the conduct of the prosecution agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which he described as ‘forum shopping’ in its quest to obtain ‘a favourable judgment’.
Justice Taiwo specifically described the act of the EFCC in obtaining an ex parte order for the freezing of bank accounts of the 4th, 5th and 6th defendants in the matter before another court as ‘an abuse of court process’.
In his ruling, the judge accused the Commission of ‘judge shopping’ aimed at getting a favourable court judgment, calling the anti-corruption agency’s conduct reprehensible and condemnable.
While describing its action as contemptuous, the judge ordered a stay of proceedings in the trial until the EFCC and its lawyer ‘do the needful’ by withdrawing the application before the other court.
The EFCC had filed an ex parte motion before Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo for the freezing of the bank accounts of 4th, 5th and 6th defendants in the alleged N570 million money laundering charge preferred against the ex-HoS and others, even as the matter is ongoing before Justice Taiwo.
While Oyo-Ita is the 1st defendant in the suit before Taiwo, Garba Umar and his two companies, Slopes International Ltd and Gooddeal Investment Ltd, are 4th, 5th and 6th defendants, respectively.
Others in the case include Frontline Ace Global Services Ltd and Asanaya Projects as 2nd and 3rd, while Ubong Okon Effiok and his two companies, U & U Global Services Ltd and Prince Mega Logistics Ltd, are 7th, 8th and 9th defendants, respectively.
The defence lawyers had urged the court to discontinue the trial until the EFCC’s counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, withdraws the application before Justice Giwa-Ogunbanjo, describing the act as an abuse of court process.
Justice Taiwo had on Feb 11 threatened to return the case file of Oyo-Ita’s trial to Chief Judge Justice John Tsoho for reassignment, before he adjourned the case to March 3rd.