20 March 2014, Lagos – An Ikeja High Court has imposed a N5,000 fine on an Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, for delaying trial in a N1.1 billion subsidy fraud suit.
Justice Lateefat Okunnu sanctioned Mr. Oyedepo for being absent from proceedings on Wednesday when a ruling was delivered on an application, in a suit the EFCC had brought against three oil marketers.
The EFCC had charged the marketers – Abdullahi Alao, Olarenwaju Olalusi and Opeyemi Ajuyah – with N1.1 billion subsidy fraud.
They were charged to court alongside their companies – Majope Investment Ltd. and Axenergy Ltd.
The judge said the absence of the EFCC counsel was a waste of tax payers’ money and the time of the court.
She, however, rejected the oral applications made by the marketers, through their respective counsel, to strike out the charge due to lack of diligent prosecution.
“Justice in a criminal matter is not only for the complainant or the accused, but it is for the society at large,” Okunnu said.
Moving the application earlier, counsel to the defendants, Oludare Falana and Aderemi Oguntoye, both urged the court to strike out the charge.
They said that the absence of the EFCC counsel breached Section 232 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State 2011.
“My Lord, the prosecution, by their absence today, have deliberately disregarded the authority of this honourable court,” Mr. Oguntoye said.
Meanwhile, the court granted permission to the fifth defendant, Mr. Olalusi, to travel to the U.K. to represent his employers at a business meeting.
The judge granted the permission while ruling on an application filed by Mr. Olalusi’s counsel, Joseph Nwobike.
Ms. Okunnu ordered the chief registrar to release his international passport for the purpose of the journey.
She said Mr. Olalusi was at liberty to travel from April 8, but must not return to the country later than April 21.
The judge vacated the April 14 and April 15 dates earlier slated for the trial.
According to her, Mr. Olalusi is to return the international passport to the chief registrar within 48 hours of being back in the country.
The matter was adjourned till March 24 for continuation of trial.