A Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, has threatened to issue an arrest warrant on the former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah who currently represents Anambra North Senatorial District at the National Assembly over the alleged N5 billion fraud if she fails to appear in court.
Justice Inyang Ekwo issued the warning after Dr. Hassan Liman, counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the trials against Oduah and eight others told the court that Oduah and another defendant were not in court to take their plea.
TOS gathered that the court had earlier fixed Feb. 9 for the trial of the former minister and eight others but because Oduah was not served with the court processes as of then, the trial could not hold.
The court also fixed April 19 for the trial but due to the strike by the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), it could not hold. The lawmaker is facing a fraud charge alongside others in a suit with number: FHC/ABJ/CR/316/20.
The EFCC is alleging that Oduah misappropriated public funds to the tune of N5 billion while serving her term as Minister of Aviation.
When the matter was called, Liman, who informed that the case was scheduled for arraignment, said the agency had carried out the court order made on Feb. 9.
“On Feb. 22, 2020, my lord made an order of substituted service on the 5th and 6th defendants in the trial.
“We have carried out the order my lord,” Liman said.
Justice Ekwo, however, said that since the proceedings did not hold on the last adjourned date, today’s proceeding should be for a report on the development and another date would be fixed for arraignment.
“How many witnesses are you calling?” the judge asked.
Liman, who said the EFCC would be calling at least 32 witnesses in the trial, said while some of the witnesses were within the court jurisdiction, others were not.
He added that the agency would produce two witnesses in the first day of trial commencement. The lawyer called the court’s attention to the fact that Oduah, who is the first defendant, and another defendant listed as 4th in the trial were not in court.
“I will fix another date for arraignment and if they like, let them not come,” Justice Ekwo replied.
“Once the plea is taken, I am proceeding with the trial.”
Ekwo, therefore, threatened to issue an arrest warrant to any defendant who was not in court in the next adjourned date.
“Apart from the 2nd and 3rd defendants, the order defendants are absent today. This is a note of warning that anyone who is absent will be issued with a warrant of arrest,” he said.
He further adjourned the arraignment and trial to October 19.