Justice Lateefat Okunnu of the Lagos State High court, sitting in Ikeja, on Friday adjourned proceedings in the case of conspiracy, obtaining property by false pretence, forgery and uttering false documents brought against Walter Wagbatsoma, Adaoha Ugo-Ngadi, Fakuade Babafemi Ebenezer and their company, Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
The case was adjourned to October 14.
The adjournment followed fiery exchanges between the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, and counsel to the first defendant, Mr. Onyeke, over the continued absence of Walter Wagbatsama from trial.
Mr. Jacobs had filed an application urging the court to continue proceedings without the first defendant whom he said had absconded from justice.
He noted that despite the court being in possession of the first defendant’s international passport, he still travelled out of the country to four countries – France, Switzerland, Netherlands and Germany – with four different passports claiming to be critically ill without informing the court.
He said the conduct of the accused contravened section 2(1) and section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
Mr. Jacobs further told the court that the first defendant was arrested in Germany by United Kingdom authorities, extradited and placed on house arrest for unconcluded criminal charges.
He urged the court to continue proceedings without the first defendant and to compel the defence counsel to produce Dr. Amodu, the physician who referred the first defendant to Germany for medical treatment.
Mr. Onyeke dismissed the submission by the prosecution on the whereabouts of the first defendant as mere market-place gossip, adding that his client had not absconded from justice but merely travelled to Germany for medical treatment.
However, Mr. Onyeke confirmed that his client was arrested in Germany by UK authorities only on suspicion, and that temporary admission had been issued to his client by the UK Home Office and had not been charged with any offence.
The defence counsel could however not oppose continuation of proceedings without the first defendant as submitted by the prosecution but said the prosecution failed to understand the difference between misconduct and a clear reason beyond the control of his client to attend proceedings.
The defendants had on July 7, 2010 allegedly obtained N340million by false pretence from the Federal Government, purporting the money to be fuel subsidy accruals payable to Ontario Oil and Gas Nigeria Limited.