Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke of the Federal High Court, Lagos, yesterday issued a bench warrant for the arrest and production in court of former director-general of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Amb. Ayodele Oke, and his wife, Folashade, charged with $205 million concealment.
The accused were charged before the court by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on counts of money laundering, fraud, concealment of crime proceeds and criminal breach of trust.
The order of the court was sequel to an application moved by the EFCC prosecutor, Rotimi Oyedepo, after the inability of the commission to arraign the defendants on February 1 and 6. Besides, the case was not listed in the case list for those days.
On Wednesday, when Oyedepo appeared before the court for the case, he tried to make an oral application, praying the court to order the arrest of the defendants. The judge declined to make any pronouncement on the ground that he was yet to study the case file.
Justice Aneke adjourned the case until Thursday for the prosecution counsel, Oyedepo, to make necessary applications.
Yesterday, Oyedepo informed the court that the defendants were not in court, adding that there had been several attempts at serving the charge on the defendants, to no avail.
“My lord, the defendants are not in court, are not represented, and have not been served with the charge.
“In the course of investigation, the defendants gave us an address; we have gone to that address and did not find the defendants.
“We have also made repeated calls to the phone of the defendants; it rang and was not picked.
“The security confirmed to us that they were living there, but said they were not around.
“I will, therefore, be praying the court for an instrument, a warrant, to arrest these defendants for the purpose of compelling their attendance to stand trial.
“Section 114 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) empowers the court to do so.
“When we had this challenge, we wanted to declare them wanted but I was mindful of the pronouncement of your brother judge, Justice Dimgba, who held that, for a defendant to be declared wanted, it has to be by an order of court,” he said.
In response, Aneke said that he agreed with the decision of Dimgba, but added that he would not declare the defendants wanted, but would issue a bench warrant.
According to Aneke, if the warrant fails, the defendants could then be declared wanted.
Aneke said: “Having carefully listened to the oral submission of counsel, praying the court for a warrant against the two defendants, Mr. Ayodele Oke and Mrs. Folashade Ayodele, consequent upon difficulty to compel their attendance, I am convinced that the application is not without merit.
“I hereby order a warrant for the arrest of the defendants in accordance with the provisions of Sections 114 of the ACJA.
“This case is adjourned until March 18 for report of compliance.”