Big shame! Court knocks EFCC over poor preparation for Moro’s trial
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday frown on the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over an alleged sloppy handling of the trial of a former Minister of Interior, Abba Moro, on charges of recruitment fraud which allegedly took place at Nigerian Immigration Services in 2014.
The 11 counts for which Moro and top officials of the Ministry of Interior are being prosecuted allegedly involve N675,675,000.
Justice Nnamdi Dimgba, who expressed “reservation” about the level of the EFCC’s “unpreparedness” for the case, was on Wednesday forced to adjourn the case until October 4 due to the anti-graft agency’s inability produce its witness in court.
The judge initially fixed the matter for Friday but had to take the date in October following the plea by the prosecuting counsel, Elizabeth Alabi, that she could not guarantee if the witness would be available in two days’ time.
The EFCC is prosecuting Moro along with some senior officials of the Ministry of Interior on 11 counts of fraud in relation to the ill-fated NIS recruitment exercise in 2014.
The defendants were alleged to have defrauded a total of 675,675 Nigerian job seekers to the tune of N675,675,000 through alleged fraudulent collection of N1,000 per applicant as online application fee for jobs at the NIS.
Moro’s co-accused are a former Permanent Secretary in the ministry, Anastasia Daniel-Nwobia, a deputy director in the ministry, F. O Alayebami and Drexel Tech Nigeria Limited, a firm that was awarded the recruitment job.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Wednesday, prosecuting counsel, Elizabeth Alabi, told the court that her next witness was a bank compliance officer but was not in court.
She said the witness who was subpoenaed to appear in court was based in Lagos.
She said due to the Islamic holiday declared by the Federal Government on Monday and Tuesday, she could not communicate with the witness in order to ensure he attended the Wednesday’s proceedings.
She requested that the matter be adjourned until the next date, Friday, which was earlier fixed for continuation of trial.
But defence lawyers, including that of Moro, Chief Chris Uche (SAN), opposed the application for adjournment describing the grounds upon which the application was sought as flimsy.
They urged the court to make an order foreclosing the prosecution’s case and call on the defence to open their case.
Reacting, the judge also described the handling of the case by the prosecution as sloppy.
“Court expresses reservation about the unprepareness of the prosecution to diligently prosecute the case,” the judge also said.
He said if by Friday the prosecution was unable to produce its next witness in court, “appropriate” step would be taken.
The judge had fixed Friday as return date when the prosecuting counsel, Alabi, rose again to inform the judge that she could not guarantee if the witness would be available by then.
The judge then asked the defence lawyers to choose another date considered to be convenient for them.
They all, along with the prosecution, agreed on October 4.
The judge then adjourned until October 4. Punch