Absence of defence counsel stalls ex-Accountant General Ahmed Idris’ fraud trial

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The absence of a defence counsel in the FCT High Court on Monday stalled the trial of suspended Accountant-General of the Federation Ahmed Idris and three others.

Mr Idris was dragged before Justice Yusuf Halilu by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), alongside Geoffrey Olusegun Akindele, Mohammed Kudu Usman, and Gezawa Commodity Market and Exchange Limited.

EFCC dragged them on a 14-count charge, alleging that they fraudulently diverted public funds to the tune of N109.5 billion.

At the resumed hearing on Monday, the EFCC prosecuting counsel, Oluwaleke Atolagbe, informed the court that the matter was slated for commencement of trial-within-trial ordered by the court at the last sitting on November 23, 2022.

The matter could not go on as Chris Uche, SAN, the counsel for Mr Idris, sent in a letter notifying the court that he was attending a pre-election case before the Appeal Court in Jos.

He, therefore, sought an adjournment.

Justice Halilu adjourned the case until March 1 for trial-within-trial.

At the last sitting in November 2022, counsel for the defendants objected to the tendering of the statements made by their clients at the EFCC.

The prosecution had sought to tender them through the first prosecution witness, Hayatudeen Ahmed, an operative with the anti-graft agency.

The counsel had argued that the statements were not voluntarily recorded in violation of sections 15 and 17 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015,

He added that the statements were obtained in the absence of the defendants’ lawyers.

Mr Uche told the court that apart from obtaining the former accountant-general’s statement in the absence of his lawyers, EFCC promised that he would not be prosecuted.

The EFCC alleged that between February and December 2021, Mr Idris accepted from Mr Akindele, a gratification of N15.1 billion, which sum was as a motive for accelerating the payment of 13 per cent derivation to the nine oil-producing states in the federation, through the office of the Accountant General of the Federation.

The anti-graft agency also alleged that N84.3 billion from the federal government’s account was converted by the first and second defendants between February and November 2021.

The EFCC said the offence contravenes sections 155 and 315 of the Penal Code Act Cap 532 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990.

The defendants pleaded not guilty.