The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has ordered a stay of proceeding in the ongoing trial of the former Head of Service, Winifred Oyo-Its, and others over alleged misconduct on the part of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The court held that the anti-graft agency’s act in obtaining an exparte order for the freezing of bank accounts of the 4th, 5th, and 6th defendants in the matter before another court was “an abuse of court process.”
In his ruling on Wednesday, the presiding judge, Justice Taiwo Taiwo, who described the EFCC’s conduct as “judge shopping” aimed at getting a favorable court judgment, maintained that the anti-corruption agency’s conduct was reprehensible and condemnable.
He said that it was an act of forum shopping. Taiwo, who was visibly angry with the anti-graft agency’s action, said that it was a contemptuous move.
The judge then ordered a stay of proceedings in the trial until the EFCC and its lawyer “do the needful” by withdrawing the application before the other court. Justice Taiwo did not fix any date for the court to reconvene sitting on the matter.
The EFCC had filed an exparte motion with suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/1202/2020 before Justice Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo for the freezing of the bank accounts of 4th, 5th, and 6th defendants in the alleged N570 million money laundering charge preferred against the ex-HoS and others, even when the matter is ongoing before Justice Taiwo.
While Oyo-Ita is the 1st defendant in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/60/2020 before Taiwo, Garba Umar, and his two companies; Slopes International Ltd and Gooddeal Investment Ltd are 4th, 5th, and 6th defendants respectively.
Others in the case include Frontline Ace Global Services Ltd and Asanaya Projects as 2nd and 3rd, while Ubong Okon Effiok and his two companies; U & U Global Services Ltd and Prince Mega Logistics Ltd are 7th, 8th, and 9th defendants respectively.
The defence lawyers had urged the court to discontinue the trial until the EFCC’s counsel, Mohammed Abubakar, withdraws the application before Justice Giwa-Ogunbanjo, describing the act as an abuse of court process.
Also Justice Taiwo, on Feb. 11, threatened to return the case file of Oyo-Ita’s trial to the Chiefs Judge, Justice John Tsoho, for reassignment. He then fixed the ruling on the matter until today, March 3.
Oyo-Ita, who was prematurely retired over corruption allegations in late 2019, is being prosecuted along with others for money laundering to the tune of N570million.