A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Wednesday, warned counsel to the parties in the trial of former Registrar, Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof. Dibu Ojerinde and four of his children, against frivolous adjournment.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, who gave the warning following a plea for an adjournment by B.A. Oyefeso, a new lawyer in the matter, threatened to make a consequential order if the trial is stalled in the next adjourned date.
Oyefeso, who held the brief of Ahmed Raji, SAN, had told the court, upon resumed hearing, that they were not ready to proceed with the trial.
According to him, the learned silk (Raji) was just briefed and he requested for the bundle of proof of evidence and we have not been able to get it to enable us prepare adequately for the defence.
Ebenezer Shogunle, the lawyer to Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC), said he would oblige Raji of what he requested since he got to know this morning that he was in the matter.
“You were given two days for trial?” Justice Ekwo asked Shogunle.
“Yes, we are ready and they just came into the matter.
“We know that the previous counsel was served in the interest of justice, we are ready to serve them afresh.
“We will make copies available to them,” he responded.
The judge, therefore, expressed displeasure that the matter would not proceed.
“I am not happy that this matter is not going on.
“I am adjourning this matter very reluctantly and there will be consequences if the matter does not go on, on the next date.
“The counsel responsible will be personally penalised,” he warned.
Ekwo then adjourned the matter until Feb. 18, Feb. 20, Feb. 21, and Feb. 22, 2024 for trial.
It was reported that the trail was, on Monday, stalled when Ibrahim Isiyaku, SAN, counsel for Ojerinde and six others, sought an adjournment to enable him make proper arrangement for the defendants’ representation.
The senior lawyer had told the court that having studied the case file, he realised that he could not appear for all the 11 defendants but seven of the defendants only in order to avoid conflict of interest.
Therefore, while Isiyaku would be representing the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 7th, 9th and 10th defendants, Raji would be appearing for the 3th, 5th, 6th and 8th defendants respectively.
The ICPC had, on June 15, arraigned the ex-JAMB registrar on charges of official corruption and abuse of office.
In a charge marked: FHC//ABJ/CR/119/2023, Ojerinde (1st defendant) was arraigned alongside four of his children; Mary Ojerinde, Olumide Ojerinde, Adebayo Ojerinde and Oluwaseun Ojerinde as 8th to 11th defendants.
Also joined in the 17-count charge are six companies linked to him, namely: Doyin Ogbohi Petroleum Limited, Cheng Marbles Limited, Sapati International Schools Limited, Trillium Learning Centre Limited, Standout Institutes Limited and Esli Perfect Security Printers Limited as 2nd to 7th defendants respectively.
The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the counts preferred against them, and were granted bail by the court.
In the 17 charges, ICPC alleged that the former JAMB boss conspired with three of his children (Oluwaseun Ojerinde, Olumide Ojerinde, and Adebayo Ojerinde) to sell off property worth $150,000 after it had been forfeited to the Federal Government by a court order.
The property is located at House No. 4 Ahomko Drive, Achimota Phase 2, Accra, Ghana.
The prosecution also accused Ojerinde of incorporating companies and taking up simultaneous appointments as chairman and director, while being a public officer on full-time appointment as registrar/chief executive of National Examinations Council (NECO), Minna and the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Bwari, Abuja.
ICPC said this was despite the fact that Ojerinde knew “very well that the Code of Conduct for Public Officers forbids public officers from engaging in private business other than farming or participating in shareholding of joint stock companies.”
The commission also alleged that Ojerinde, “in order to avoid various anti-corruption and anti-money laundering policies of government, notably Know Your Customer (KYC) and Bank Verification Number (BVN) policies, took measures to conceal his ownership and active participation in the management of some of these companies by using forged documents, stolen identities and synthetic names.”
According to ICPC, some of the alleged offences are contrary to and punishable under Sections 17, 19, 22 and 24 of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.
Some of the offences were also said to be contrary to, and punishable under Section 1 of the Advanced Fee Fraud Act, 2006.