The ongoing trial of Abubakar Ali Peters and his company, Nadabo Energy Limited, over a 21-count charge bordering on forgery and subsidy fraud to the tune of N761,628,993.84 before Justice S.S. Ogunsanya of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos could not continue today, Monday, November 1, 2021, as the defendant was absent in court.
Justice Ogunsanya had, at the last proceedings on September 22, 2021, adjourned till November 1 and 2, 2021 for the defence to cross-examine the Executive Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Abdulrasheed Bawa, after the conclusion of his examination-in-chief.
Bawa had told the Court that investigations by the EFCC into petitions received from the Ministry of Petroleum Resources and some concerned Nigerians in 2015 alleging fraud in the subsidy regime uncovered forged documents allegedly used by the defendant to claim subsidy funds for 12,000MT of PMS “whereas only about 6,000 MT was imported by the defendant”.
At the resumed sitting today, however, rather than commence with the cross-examination of the witness, counsel for the defence, E.O. Isiramen, informed the Court that his client was absent having contracted coronavirus.
“He is ill with coronavirus, as he tested positive for the virus and he is presently at an isolation centre, where he is receiving treatment,” he said.
However, the judge asked him to give the Court the specific isolation centre, where his client was receiving treatment.
“There are several isolation centres; and moreover, there is no medical report before the Court,” Justice Ogunsanya queried.
In response, Isiramen said: “I don’t know precisely where he is; the report was sent via email.”
The judge, expressing surprise, however, stressed that the Court was a “court of records not of speculations”.
In his response, the prosecuting counsel, S.K. Atteh, told the Court that the same reason was given for the absence of the defendant at another fraud case against him before Justice C.A. Balogun of a Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja.
“Over a month ago, the defence gave the same reason for the absence of the defendant and the Court ordered the defence to serve the prosecution with the copy of the medical report. But up till now, we have not been served,” he said.
Accordingly, the Judge expressed displeasure that the defence was “wasting judicial time”.
The judge said, “The Court is very displeased with you. Why not inform the Court before now.
“You are responsible to bring him to Court, and this is the only matter listed.
“This is not a civil matter, but a criminal matter.
“The Court would have revoked the bail. But for the illness, no bench warrant for now.”
Atteh applied to the Court to “impose penalty” on the defence and to order the defence to produce the medical report backing the claim.
While adjourning till December 16 and 17, 2021, Justice Ogunsanya gave the defence seven days to furnish the prosecution and the Court with the medical report, and to pay the sum of N309,000.00, within seven days, to defray the costs incurred by the two witnesses, whom the prosecution had brought to Court from Abuja for the matter.