Lawyer’s absence stalls N675m spiritual cleansing fraud trial

Lawyer’s absence stalls N675m spiritual cleansing fraud trial

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The trial of a suspected fraudster, Abayomi Alaka, on Thursday, suffered a setback as counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nkereuwem Anana, failed to show up in court.

Alaka was arraigned before the Special Offences Court, Ikeja, in February 3, 2022, alongside Morufu Yahaya, Omitogun Ajayi, and Ajisegiri Abiodun, for allegedly obtaining the sum of N675m under false pretences.

The EFCC alleged that the defendant in May 2018 in Lagos obtained the money from Dr and Dr Mrs Lateef Bello to conduct prayers for spiritual cleansing for their son and family, promising that the money would be refunded after the prayers.

The offence is said to be contrary to Section 410 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State of Nigeria 2011.

The EFCC counsel, Joy Amaihian, informed the court that the prosecutor handling the trial had been transferred to another jurisdiction.

Amaihian pleaded with the court to grant the agency adjournment to enable the commission to reassign another counsel to take over the case file.

The defence counsel, Olalekan Ojo, who did not oppose the adjournment, expressed dismay that the commission did not make arrangements to ensure the trial was not forestalled.

Ojo said, “I am surprised that the agency will transfer counsel without proper communication to the defence team and adequate replacement, thereby allowing precious time coming to court wasted. It is also not good that the matter is not going on today.”

But the EFCC counsel objected to Ojo’s position, saying Anana who was handling the matter was also not in court at the last adjourned date and a junior lawyer from the commission stood in for him.

However, Justice Oluwatoyin Taiwo said court records of what happened on the last adjourned date clearly stated that Anana was in court.

“My record is very clear on what happened on the last adjournment date; Mr Anana was present in court though he was late because the court had to wait for him and so it is not correct that he was not present in court,” she said.

Justice Taiwo adjourned further hearing till June 21 for continuation of trial.

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