From Habiba Ibrahim-Sam
An Edo State High Court, presided over by Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele, has adjourned for the third consecutive time, the case of N1.6 billion alleged fraud instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against the Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) on the ground of ill health of the first defendant, Prince Stephen Alao.
According to him, “This is the third time we are adjourning for judgement”.
Recall that the Ibadan Zonal Office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Thursday, October 5, 2017 arraigned the former chairman of Edo State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB), Prince Stephen Alao and four other members of the board; Adams Osabuohie, (Directorof Finance and Administration); Dove Momodu, Mallam Ali Sulayman (Acting Board Chairman) and Dr. Aisosa Amadasun before Justice Ohimai Ovbiagele of the Edo State High Court, Benin City, on charges bordering criminal conspiracy, conferring corrupt advantage upon self and knowingly holding private interest in a contract award and abuse of office respectively.
One of the charges preferred against them read, “that you Prince Stephen Alao, Adams Osabuohien, Dove Momodu, Mallam Ali Sulayman and Dr. Aisosa Amadasun, sometime in the years 2013 to 2016, at Edo State conspired to commit an offense under Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, No. 5, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2000.”
The accused persons allegedly abused their office and fraudulently diverted public funds through payments for non-existent contracts, diversion of tender fees and illegal sale of government properties.
Prince Alao and others, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.
At the resumed hearing on Friday, April 1, 2022, counsel to the first defendant, Barr. Elema Ivie, briefed the presiding judge that his client could not make it to the court because of his health challenges.
He said in the court’s last sitting, the judge had asked for an evidence to show that the first defendant was actually incapacitated.
He, however, tendered the doctor’s health report of the first defendant to the presiding judge.
When one of the lawyers urged the court to deliver hisjudgement in absentia, the presiding judge said the first defendant should be given some time based on his poor health as clearly stated by his doctor and presented before him by his counsel.
Ohimai maintained that the first defendant has always shown up at the court whenever the case was mentioned.
Consequently, the case was adjourned to April 29, 2022.