Further hearing in the trial of the Deputy National Chairman (South) of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Yemi Akinwonmi, and two officials of the Ogun State office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over a N179.8 million fraud case before a Lagos Federal High Court, suffered a setback on Thursday due to the absence of the defendants’ counsel, Mr Ahmed Raji (SAN).
Raji had written a letter to the court for an adjournment, stating that he was advised by his doctor to take a medical rest.
Akinwonmi and the two INEC officials, Dickson Atiba and Ogunmodede Oladayo, are facing trial before Justice Chuka Obiozor on fraud charges brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The three defendants were first arraigned before Justice Sule Hassan on July 30, 2018, during the court’s annual vacation, while they were granted bail by Justice Obiozor, on August 7, 2018, after arguing their bail applications by their counsel.
The matter was reassigned to Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke after the vacation.
Midway to the trial of the defendants, Justice Aneke withdrew from hearing the matter, following application made to the court by the defence. The matter was consequently reassigned to Justice Obiozor, while their plea were retaken.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Thursday, EFCC counsel Samuel Daji told the court that the business of the day is for hearing of defendants’ two pending applications and that he was surprised that counsel to the defendants were not in court.
He added that he was not informed about their counsel’s absence.
However, before Daji could complete his submission, the presiding judge called his attention to a letter written by the defendants’ new counsel, Mr. Raji, wherein he sought an adjournment due to ill-health coupled with his doctor’s advice that he take a medical rest.
“Tthere is a letter for adjournment by the defendants’ counsel, he had a medical advice to rest,” Justice Obiozor said.
Following the reading of Raji’s letter, Daji conceded to the adjournment sought for and, with his understanding and agreement, Justice Obiozor adjourned the matter till October 30.
The three defendants are facing an eight count-charge bordering on conspiracy, by befitting from proceeds of crime, receiving various cash sums without going through financial institutions and accepting various cash sums exceeding amounts authorised by law.
They were accused of receiving the said money from Guaranty Trust Bank (GTB), United Bank for Africa (UBA), Stanbic/IBTC, Diamond Bank Plc, First City Monument Bank (FCMB) Skye Bank Plc and Diamond Bank Plc, sometime in March 2015 during the General Elections.
The offences, according to the prosecution led by Rotimi Oyedepo, violate sections 18 (a), 15(2)(d), 16 (d) 1(a), 16 (1) (d), and 16 (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2011, as amended, and are punishable under sections 15 (3)(4) and 16 (2)(b) of the same Act.
The accused have pleaded not guilty to all charges.