Trial of ex-Head of Service, Oyo-Ita, stalled in court

The trial of the former Head of Service (HoS), Mrs Winifred Oyo-Ita, was, on Monday, stalled in a Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja.
Justice Taiwo Taiwo had, on March 3, 2021, ordered an indefinite stay of proceedings in the trial due to The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC)’s alleged misconduct.

While the trial was ongoing before Justice Taiwo, the EFCC had, through an ex-parte motion, obtained a temporary freezing order before another court presided over by Justice Folashade Gowa-Ogunbanjo of FHC against the defendants in the matter, leading to the freezing of their accounts pending the determination of the case.

Unhappy with the development, Justice Taiwo agreed with the defence to stay further proceedings until the EFCC purged itself of contempt of the court by withdrawing the account freezing application from the sister court.

The judge held that the action of the anti-graft agency was condemnable and amounted to “an abuse of court process, forum shopping, and contempt of court.”
“Hearing is stayed until prosecution purges itself of contempt,” Taiwo had ruled.
However, on Monday’s cause list, the matter was listed as number 17 for resumed hearing.
Oyo-Ita and other defendants were in court, and hardly had the court begun sitting when the matter was rescheduled for May 4 and May 5.
The judge hinged his reason on the premise that there were many cases before the court, especially election-related matters.
Besides, the court began sitting at about 1pm after a visiting judge’s proceedings.
Oyo-Ita is being charged alongside Frontline Ace Global Services Limited, Asanaya Projects Limited, Garba Umar and his two companies – Slopes International Limited and Gooddeal Investments Limited.
Charged with Oyo-Ita is Ubong Effiok and his two companies – U & U Global Services Limited and Prince Mega Logistics Limited.
EFCC charged the defendants with corruption, fraud, obtaining estacodes and Duty Travel Allowance (DTA) for journeys either not undertaken or not in existence, amounting to about N570 million.
In one of the counts, the EFCC accused Frontline Ace Global Services Ltd of disguising the genuine ownership of N20m paid by the Federal Ministry of Power into the Zenith Bank account with number 1011518656, which breached the provisions of Section 14(1) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act 2004.
They pleaded not guilty to the charge during their arraignment on March 23, 2020, following which the court adjourned for the commencement of trial.
NAN also reports that judge had, on Feb. 11, 2021, threatened to remit the case file to the Chief Judge of the court, Justice John Tsoho.

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