By Sandra Umeh
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Thursday issued a bench warrant for the arrest and production in court of a former Director-General of the National Intelligence Agency (NIA), Amb. Ayo Oke, and his wife, Folashade, charged with 205 million dollars concealment.
The accused were charged before Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on counts of money laundering, fraud, concealment of crime proceeds and criminal breach of trust.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the defendants’ arraignment was billed for Feb. 1 and later Feb. 6, but it couldn’t hold as the case was not listed in the cause list for those days.
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke adjourned the case until Thursday for the prosecution counsel, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, to make neccesary applications.
On Thursday, Oyedepo informed the court that the defendants were not in court, adding that there had been several attempts at serving the charge on the defendants to no avail.
“My lord, the defendants are not in court, are not represented, and have not been served with the charge.
“In the course of investigation, the defendants gave us an address; we have gone to that address and did not find the defendants.
“We have also made repeated calls to the phone of the defendants; it rang and was not picked.
“The security confirmed to us that they were living there, but said they were not around.
” I will, therefore, be praying the court for an instrument, a warrant to arrest these defendants, for the purpose of compelling their attendance to stand trial.
“Section 114 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) empowers the court to do so.
“When we had this challenge, we wanted to declare them wanted but I was mindful of the pronouncement of your brother judge, Justice Dimgba, who held that, for a defendant to be declared wanted, it has to be by an order of court,” he said.
In response, Aneke said that he agreed with the decision of Dimgba, but added that he would not declare the defendants wanted, but would issue a bench warrant.
According to Aneke, if the warrant fails, the defendants can then be declared wanted.
Aneke held : “Having carefully listened to the oral submission of counsel praying the court for a warrant against the two defendants, Mr Ayodele Oke and Mrs Folashade Ayodele, consequent upon difficulty to compel their attendance, I am convinced that the application is not without merit.
“I hereby, order a warrant for the arrest of the defendants in accordance with the provisions of Sections 114 of the ACJA.
“This case is adjourned until March 18 for report of compliance.”
According to the charge, on April 12, 2017, the accused indirectly concealed the sum of 43.5 million dollars, property of the Federal Government of Nigeria at Flat 7B, No. 16, Osborne Road, Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The accused were also alleged to have, from Aug. 25, 2015, and Sept. 2, 2015, in Lagos, indirectly used 1.7 million dollars, property of the Federal Government of Nigeria to acquire Flat 7B, No. 16, Osborne Road, Osborne Towers, Ikoyi, Lagos.
The prosecution also alleged that the accused directly converted 160.8 million dollars property of the Federal Government of Nigeria to their own use.
The prosecution said that the accused reasonably ought to have known that the said sums were proceeds of an unlawful act, adding that their acts constituted a criminal breach of trust and concealment of crime proceeds.
The alleged offences contravenes the provisions of Sections 15, 15 (2), 15(2)(d) and 15 (3) of the Money Laundering Prohibition Act, 2015.