The trial of a businessman, Jide Omokore, and others for alleged diversion of $1.6bn proceeds of sales of Federal Government’s crude oil, was stalled before the Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday due to the absence of prosecution witnesses.
The lead counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), who is prosecuting Omokore and other defendants on behalf of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, expressed his regrets to the trial judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, over the failure of two scheduled witnesses to attend court on Thursday.
The trial had held on Wednesday, with the EFCC calling its fourth prosecution witness who was also cross-examined by the defence, and the matter was adjourned until Thursday for continuation.
But at the resumed hearing on Thursday, Jacobs said his two witnesses, who were to arrive from Lagos, were not available despite earlier giving him assurances that they would be in court for the proceedings.
He explained that one of the two witnesses was an investigative officer in the case but was recently transferred from Abuja to Lagos.
The judge also expressed sadness over the failure of the witnesses to be in court.
Although the judge attested to the dilligence of the prosecuting counsel and noted that he sensed the lawyer was embarrassed by the absence of the witnesses, he insisted that the trial must continue on Thursday.
The judge suggested that he would stand down the matter for as long as when the prosecution was able to produce the witnesses in court to enable the trial to make a progress.
But with the intervention of some of the defence lawyers, including R.A Rabana-Lawal (SAN), Adeniyi Adegbonmire (SAN), and Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), who explained that Jacobs had explained his difficulty to them before the court sitting, the judge reluctantly adjourned the matter till March 1 and 2.
The EFCC is prosecuting Omokore, his two companies, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Limited, and others on nine counts of criminal diversion of about $1.6bn alleged to be part of proceeds of sales of petroleum products belonging to the Federal Government.