Justice Nnamdi Dimgba of a Federal High Court, Abuja, has again adjourned the trial of a former Accountant-General of the Federation, Jonah Otunla, to February 7, 2019. The adjournment is consequent upon the absence of the defendant in court. The Court however stressed that if he is again absent at the next adjourned date, the Court will be compelled to hear the application of the prosecution seeking for a warrant for his arrest.
Otunla is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a five-count charge of money laundering involving the diversion of about N2 billion from the account of the Office of the National Security Adviser, ONSA.
He was to be arraigned on December 7, 2017 along with Ade Adelakun, and seven other companies – Gold Reef Industries Limited, Lambster Nigeria Limited, G.C. Electronic Limited, Sinmilak Nigeria Limited, Wehsac Farms Limited, Shepherded Field Global Resources Limited and Stellavera Development Company Limited, but his absence stalled his arraignment.
The case was rescheduled to January 22, 2018, but yet again he was absent in court, and though his counsel, Ahmed Raji, SAN, represented him, his absence stalled his trial, as Adelakun who was present in court, could not take his plea. Raji had told the Court that his client was away “for medical treatment abroad”.
One of the counts reads: “That you, Jonah Ogunniyi Otunla being the former Accountant General of the Federation and a Director and signatory to the ECOBANK account of WEHSAC FARM LTD, Otunba Ade Adelakun, being the Managing Director/Chief Executive officer and a signatory to the accounts of Goldreef Industries Nigeria Limited, Fidelity Bank, Lambster Nigeria Limited- Zenith Bank, G.C Electronics Ltd – GTB and Sinmilak Nigeria Limited- Fidelity Account, Col. Bello Fadile (now at large) being the former Director, Special Duties in the office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA) and also a Director and signatory to the accounts of Helpline Organisation, sometime between June and August 2013, in Abuja within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court directly converted the sum of N2,000,000,000 (Two Billion Naira) only transferred to the accounts of Goldreef Industries Limited-Fidelity Bank (N550 million), Lambster Nigeria Limited- Zenith Bank (N650 million), G.C Electronics Limited – GTB (N450 million) and Sinmilak Nigeria Limited- Fidelity Account (N350 million) from the account of the Office of the National Security Adviser with the Central Bank of Nigeria purporting to be for the supply of security equipments when you reasonably ought to have known that the said fund formed part of the proceeds of an unlawful activity of Col. Mohammed Sambo Dasuki (retd), the then National Security Adviser (to wit: criminal breach of trust and corruption) and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 (2)(b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 as amended in 2012 and punishable under Section 15 (3) and (4) of the same Act”.
His absence also stalled his expected arraignment on April 30, 2018 prompting the prosecution led by Francis Jirbo, to file an ex parte motion seeking for the issuance of a warrant of arrest against Otunla.
Jirbo had argued that: “The first defendant (Otunla), having jumped administrative bail has failed severally to appear before the court. I hereby apply for a warrant of arrest to produce the defendant and to be properly charged by this Honorable Court”.
Jirbo had also told the Court that the oath of warrant of arrest, filed on March 1, 2018 was brought pursuant to Section 37 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015. It disclosed that “Otunla and Adelakun were investigated by the EFCC and had responded by making statements in writing, while their accomplice, Fadile, bolted out of the country and is currently said to be living in the United Kingdom as a fugitive”.
At the resumed sitting, on January 15, 2019 again Otunla was absent in Court, but a new twist was brought to the trial as the Court was informed that Adelakun was dead.
However, the Court ordered the defendant to produce a death certificate as evidence before the Court “or an affidavit of death to be filed to authenticate the death”.