Alleged N29bn fraud: Court fixes Tuesday for Nyako, others to open defence

A Federal High Court, Abuja, has fixed Tuesday for former Governor of Adamawa, Murtala Nyako, to open his defence in the alleged N29 billion fraud filed against him and others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Justice Okon Abang fixed the date on Monday after counsel to the defendants prayed the court for an adjournment to enable them prepare for their defence.

The court had, earlier, ordered Nyako and others to enter their defence shortly after the matter was called following Leke Atolagbe, counsel to the EFCC’s application to the effect which was not challenged by the defence.
Justice Abang then stood down the case for the defendants to open their defence.
The co-defendants in the suit are Nyako’s son, Abdulaziz; Sebore Farms and Extension Ltd; Pagado Fortunes Ltd; Zulkifik Abba; Abubakar Aliyu; Blue Opal Ltd; Tower Assets Management Ltd and Crust Energy Ltd.

The alleged fraud was said to have been perpetrated during Nyako’s administration as governor of Adamawa between 2008 to 2014.
The Court of Appeal, Abuja had, on Jan. 18 in the appeal filed by the defence, ordered Nyako and other co-defendants, to defend themselves in the case.
Abang had, on Dec. 10, 2021, adjourned until Jan. 24, in view of a pending appeal before the appellate court.
The trial judge had, on July 19, 2021, dismissed a no-case-submission application filed by Nyako against the anti-graft agency after its counsel closed their case.
But dissatisfied with the ruling, the defendants had gone to the Court of Appeal, seeking an order of stay of proceedings on the case at the trial court as well as the dismissal of the ruling on their no-case submission.
Abang had adjourned to Jan. 24 for report on the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
However at the resumed hearing, the EFCC’s lawyer, Atolagbe, told the court that Nyako’s appeal as well as that of other defendants, had been dismissed by the appellate court.
“We are glad to tell my lord that the waiting is over.
“The Court of Appeal delivered its judgment on Jan. 18, and it affirmed the decision of this honourable court in its ruling of 19 July, 2021 where it said that the defendants have a case to answer because the prosecution has made a strong prima facie case against the defendants.
“The court further directed all the defendants to come back to this honourable court and enter their defence.
“In view of that, we urge my lord to direct the defendants to enter their defence,” the lawyer said.
All the defendants lawyers confirmed Atolagbe’s statement to be true.
Abang then ordered the defendants to open their defence immediately.
But the defendant later urged the judge to adjourn for them to prepare adequately for their defence and it was countered by the EFCC lawyer, arguing that the defence was trying to employ a delay tactics in the matter.
The judge refused to grant the application by the defendants counsel to adjourn the matter.
He said that the lawyers to the defence took a risk when they did not counter Atolagbe’s request for them to enter defence immediately.
“It is my view that the defendants should have prepared themselves, knowing that the judgment of the Court of Appeal could go either way,
“I cannot overrule myself, I cannot review my decision, I so hold,” he ruled.
But when the case was called for the defendants to open their defence, their counsel, citing Section 396(5) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2016, argued that the provision gave a defendant the room to seek for an adjournment at least for five times in criminal case.
He saod in the interest of fair hearing, the defendants should be afforded adequate time to defend themselves.
Atolagbe partially opposed to the application.
Justice Abang, in his ruling, adjourned thr matter until Tuesday for the defendants to open their defence.

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