The Ministry of Justice, which is prosecuting a fraudulent withdrawal of N2.2million from a defunct Skye Bank account, has once again absented itself from the Lagos State Magistrate Court in Ikeja for the continuation of the seven-year-old trial.
The case, which was first instituted in 2012, came up before Mrs. A.K. Dosumu on Monday but was returned to the administrative magistrate for reassignment.
This made it the fourth time the case would be returned to the central administration for reassignment since the trial started.
Mrs. Alu Patience and Mrs. Abiola Gbadamosi, two prosecuting counsel of the Ministry, took over the case from the Lagos State Police Command that instituted it in 2012.
The Ministry of Justice charged four defendants — Mohammed Soliu Ayunba, Ernest Etiosa Makir, Adewale Adeniyi and Abayomi David, who is at large — on two counts bordering on fraudulent withdrawal of N2.2million from a duties account of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) domiciled in Skye Bank, NAHCO branch, Airport, Ikeja, Lagos.
Findings by SaharaReporters revealed that David, the fourth defendant, who is at large, left the country to establish a church in Minnesota, USA.
Although David had changed his name on his Facebook Profile, his unique profile Identity showed that Abayomi David were two of the names he initially registered the account with.
According to the charge sheet obtained by SaharaReporters, David and the three others conspired among yourselves to defraud NCS of the alleged sum.
The ministry said the offence was committed between February and September 2012, within the jurisdiction of Ikeja Magisterial District, an offence punishable under section 323 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2011.
The second charge read: “That you Mohammed Soliu Ayunba (M), Ernest Etiosa Makiri (M), Adewale Adeniyi (M), Abayomi David (M) between the months of February to September 2012 at Skye Bank, NAHCO branch Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, in the Ikeja Magisterial District did steal the sum of two million, two hundred thousand Naira property of Nigeria Customs Service and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 285 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State 2011.”
At the resumption of hearing on Monday, the defendants showed up as scheduled but the prosecuting counsel and lawyers representing Skye Bank were absent at the hearing.
Consequently, the Magistrate returned the case file to the Chief Magistrate for reassignment as requested by the counsel to one of the defendants.
Ernest, a former staff member of the bank who allegedly aided David in perfecting the withdrawal of the said amount from an account of the NCS in Skye Bank, declined to give any comment when he was approached. On his part, Adeniyi, a former staff of the defunct Skye Bank, claimed that he was only indicted by the bank because he has information that potentially reveals the negligence of duty on the part of management.
He said: “Abayomi used his position as a transaction officer of the branch to plan and eventually diverted the sum of N2,200,000 from a Nigeria custom duties collection account with the bank. There were three of them who committed this crime; he and one other staff, Ernest Alakiri Etiosa, and a customer of the bank, Ayuba Soliu Mohammed Babatunde, whose account was used to move the fund. The fraud would not be possible if not for the negligence of the then Branch Manager, Mrs. Temitope Asiwaju.”
Adeniyi, who seemed frustrated by the turn the case has taken, accused the prosecutor of conniving with David.
He said: “The case was before the Magistrate (Mrs) L.Y. Balogun of Court 19, Ogba Magistrate Court in Ikeja, and when Abayomi jumped bail in early 2016, the Magistrate issued a bench warrant against him and stepped his name aside so that the case can continue. I suspect that the prosecutors who are from the Ministry of Justice/Directorate of Public Prosecution are highly working in the interest of Abayomi David in order for the case not to see the light of the day.
“These prosecutors from DPP have wasted seven years playing different kinds of tactics and pretending to be struggling to establish the case against the accused so that this case can be struck out and serve the interest of the accused more than that of justice.
“The prosecutors suddenly want the case transferred in order to start from the beginning in court 16, just because the Magistrate is thorough. Regrettably, this case was transferred and was called up for the first time in court 16 on February 27, 2019.
“Painfully, the same prosecutors who wrote to transfer the case were absent from court. The case was then adjourned till March 25, 2019, and again, they have failed to show up. This case has been transferred more than four times to four different magistrates and five courtrooms.”
Adeniji is urging the Chief Magistrate of Lagos and Head of DPP to swiftly act in accordance with the law and ensure that justice is delivered in the case.