The trial of the immediate past Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Winifred Oyo-Ita, was on Wednesday stalled due to the absence of the lawyer to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mohammed Abubakar.
On March 23, the EFCC arraigned Mrs Oyo-Ita on an 18-count charge of N3 billion graft alongside her special assistant, Ubong Effiok; Frontline Ace Global Services Limited; Asanaya Projects Ltd; Garba Umar and his companies, Slopes International Ltd and Good deal Investments Ltd.
Other defendants include U & U Global Services Ltd, belonging to Mr Effiok, and Prince Mega Logistics Ltd.
They were all arraigned for alleged fraud in relation to Duty Tour Allowance (DTA), estacodes, conference fees and receiving kickbacks on contracts, before Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The nine defendants pleaded not guilty to the 18-count charge
Mrs Oyo-Ita was arrested last August and released on administrative bail after spending four days in the custody of the EFCC.
She was subsequently sacked in September after about N600 million was allegedly found in the bank account of her aide.
At the commencement of trial on Wednesday, the prosecution was absent.
Mrs Oyo-Ita’s lawyer, Paul Erokoro, told the court that he does not know the reason for the absence of the prosecution counsel. He then urged the court to grant an adjournment.
“Since we do not know why they are not here we ask for a fairly long adjournment to give the prosecution time subject to the court’s convenience. We also ask that they are issued hearing notices,” he said.
The other defendant’s lawyers aligned themselves with the submissions of Mr Erokoro and did not object to the application for an adjournment.
Following this, Justice Taiwo, in his ruling took judicial notice of the prosecutor’s absence. He also agreed to grant a long adjournment since the matter “is not classified urgent and time-bound” and to give the prosecutor time to make himself available.
The judge adjourned the case to July and ordered that hearing notice should be served on the prosecution.