Justice Taiwo Taiwo, a federal high court in Abuja, has threatened to return the case file of Winifred Oyo-Ita, former head of service, to the chief judge for reassignment.
The judge berated the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for its delay in withdrawing another suit filed for the freezing of bank accounts of three defendants standing trial with Oyo-Ita.
On March 23, the EFCC had arraigned Oyo-Ita and eight others on 18 counts of money laundering to the tune of N570m before Taiwo in a suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/60/2020.
Subsequently, the anti-graft commission filed an ex parte motion with suit number: FHC/ABJ/CS/1202/2020 before Folashade Giwa-Ogunbanjo, another federal high court judge, for the freezing of the bank accounts of the fourth, fifth and sixth defendants in the suit before Taiwo.
Garba Umar and his companies; Slopes International Limited and Good deal Investments Limited are the fourth, fifth and sixth defendants.
On December 1, 2020, the counsel to the defendants notified the court of the freeze order, describing it as an “abuse of court process”.
The counsel urged the court to adjourn the trial indefinitely pending when the accounts are unfrozen and evidence placed before the court.
The judge had ordered Mohammed Abubakar, EFCC’s lawyer, to do the “needful” and give feedback to the court.
At the proceedings on Thursday, the judge further expressed displeasure that the commission had gone ahead to obtain the freeze order from another court while the matter was pending before him.
“Why did you go to the other court to obtain an order? Why do you have to go to Ogunbanjo when the case is pending here?” Taiwo asked.
He said the proper thing is for the counsel to withdraw the case before Giwa-Ogunbanjo and then “file it properly before me so I can take full control of this case”.
“Do the needful and withdraw it, or else I will return the file to the CJ. I cannot discharge an order made by a sister court,” the judge said.
Responding, Abubakar said: “We will see how we can withdraw it.”
The case has been adjourned to February 24.
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