A former Minister of Niger Delta, Godsday Orubebe, was on Tuesday absent from a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Maitama, where he was scheduled to be arraigned alongside others on charges of diversion of about N2bn meant for the dualisation of Section IV of the East West Road.
Orubebe and others allegedly committed the offences between 2010 and 2010 while he was the Niger Delta Affair minister.
Orubebe’s lawyer, Mr. F. Zimhuan, apologised to the trial judge, Justice Olukayode Adeniyi, for the absence of his client, whom he said suddenly took ill after a domestic accident and was rushed to the hospital.
Zimhuan said the ex-minister’s health was complicated by his hypertensive condition.
The lawyer said, “The first defendant is in the hospital. His absence in court today is not deliberate. He suddenly took ill. He had domestic accident affecting his ankle and wrist. He is hypertensive and the cumulative effect was that they had to rush him to the hospital.
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“We want to give the assurance that the first accused will be ready to face his trial anytime he is discharged from the hospital and we pray that it won’t be long from today.”
The Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission had preferred five counts against Orubebe, alongside Oludare Alaba, Ephraim Zeri (Director of Contracts) and Gitto Costruzioni Generali Nigeria Limited.
Alaba and Zeri were present in court while Orubebe was absent on Tuesday.
But all the defendants including Orubebe were represented by their lawyers.
Mr. K.B. Asunogie represented Alaba while Chief Kanu Agabi represented Zeri and Gitto Costruzioni Generali Nigeria Limited.
Prosecuting counsel, Mr. Osuobeni Akponimisingha, faulted the medical report passed to the judge during the proceedings by Orubebe’s lawyer as proof of the ex-minister’s health status.
Akponimisingha said the medical report was not believable, adding that it was a deliberate ploy to stall the trial.
“It is a deliberate ploy to stall this trial. The medical report is nothing to believe in,” he said.
He said since it was a case in which all the accused were jointly charged, it could not proceed in Orubebe’s absence.
The judge fixed September 7 for arraignment.
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