The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, threatened to close the case of alleged fraud of $1.6 billion instituted by the federal government against Jide Omokore and five others.
Omokore is an ally of former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Allison-Madueke.
When the matter was called, the Prosecuting Counsel, Mr Oluwaleke Atolagbe, told the court that the lead Counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), had requested the court to stand down the matter.
Atolagbe told the Presiding Judge, Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, that Jacobs had informed him on Wednesday night that he could not get the prosecution witnesses who were billed for cross examination.
He further said that Jacobs had told him that the witnesses, operatives of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), the prosecuting agency, were writing examination.
Omokore’s counsel, Mr R. Lawal, SAN, confirmed that Jacobs had called him on the issue but decried the attitude of the EFCC since the trial commenced, describing it as unfortunate.
“Most of the adjournments granted by this court since this trial started, are at the instance of the prosecution; in fact, none of the defence lawyers has asked for an adjournment.”
He said that he contemplated asking the court to close the prosecution’s case but rather asked the court to order that the adjournment would be the last at the instance of the prosecution.
Counsel to the other defendants all aligned themselves with Lawal’s submission.
Justice Dimgba also said that he would not be averse to granting an application asking the court to close the prosecution’s case.
“I would have closed the case of the prosecution, but I will grant the prosecution one more indulgence,” he said.
He adjourned the matter until April 26 and 27 for the prosecution to call its witnesses.
Omokore is being prosecuted alongside Victor Briggs, former Managing Director, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) and Abiye Membere, former Group Executive Director, Exploration and Production of NNPC.
Also standing trial with Omokore is David Mbanefo, former Manager, Planning and Commercial of NNPC, on a nine-count amended charge of criminal diversion of about $1.6 billion alleged to be proceeds of petroleum products belonging to the Federal Government.
Other defendants in the suit are two corporate entities, Atlantic Energy Brass Development Limited and Atlantic Energy Drilling Concepts Limited, allegedly owned by Omokore.