Arraignment of Omokore, other stalled in court

The absence of Albert Bassey, a senator and oil baron, Olajide Omokore, on Wednesday stalled their trial over alleged bribe of 12 cars worth N254 million.

The duo who were billed to be arraigned before Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo of an Ikeja Special Offences Court were absent in court.

According to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Bassey, 45, who is representing Akwa-Ibom North-East, received the vehicles between 2010 and 2014 from Mr Omokore, when he was serving as the Akwa-Ibom Commissioner for Finance.

The defendants are facing a 14-count charge bordering on corruption.

At Wednesday’s proceedings, Mr Omokore’s counsel, Olatunde Adejuyigbe SAN, informed the court of a pending application before the court bordering on jurisdiction.

He, however, said the EFCC had just filed a response to the application which was served on them on November 23.

“My Lord, much as we are willing to move on with the application, there is no way I can just gloss over the prosecution’s response which was just served on us,’’ Mr Adejuyigbe said.

The EFCC prosecutor, M. S Abubakar, in his response told the court that the defendants should have made themselves available for arraignment before filing applications.

“It is not right that the applications should be heard at this stage when arraignment has not taken place,’’ Mr Abubakar said.

Mr Adejuyigbe, SAN, also complained that the anti-graft agency was hounding his client, a claim echoed by Mr Bassey’s counsel, Samuel Ikpo.

Responding to the claim, Mr Abubakar said the defendants were on administrative bail but had refused to show up at the commission’s office.

“EFCC is not hounding anybody, the defendants have refused to show up at the EFCC to be served with the processes,’’ he said.

Taiwo immediately told the EFCC prosecutor to serve the defendant’s counsels, adding that they can collect the processes on behalf of their clients.

Taiwo also reminded the EFCC prosecutor of the Supreme Court ruling, stating that the defendants don’t have to be physically present in court before they can file applications bordering on jurisdiction.

The case has been adjourned till January 23, 2019 for hearing of the application.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that Mr Bassey is to face a seven-count charge bordering on corruption as a public officer and collecting bribes.

On his part, Mr Omokore is also facing a seven-count charge bordering on offering gratification to a public officer and giving bribe.

According to the charge sheet, Mr Bassey received the vehicles from Mr Omokore over a five-year period (2010-2014) in Lagos.

Mr Bassey received the bribes while serving as the Akwa-Ibom Commissioner for Finance and Chairman of the Akwa-Ibom State Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee (IMDLCC).

The EFCC claimed that on May 10, 2010, Mr Bassey allegedly received a BMW X5 BP worth N50 million from Mr Omokore in December 2012 and another Infinity QX 56 BP worth N45 million from him.

On November 2013, the serving senator received a Toyota Landcruiser V8 BP valued at N40 million and in March 2014, he received a Range Rover, also valued at N40 million from the businessman as well as in September 2014, another Toyota Hiace High Roof car valued at N27 million.

Others are Toyota Hiace High Roof car valued at N16 million and six units of Toyota Hilux vehicles valued at N36 million.

The anti-graft commission claimed that the car gifts were given to Mr Bassey by Mr Omokore in exchange for contracts from the Akwa-Ibom State Government.

The offences contravened Sections 63 (1) (a), 64 (1) (a) and 98(1), (a), (i) of the Criminal Law of Lagos 2011.