THE absence of Senator Albert Bassey’s lawyer in court on Tuesday November 12, 2019, stalled his trial before Justice A. A.Okeke of the Federal High Court sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State.
When the matter was called for continuation of trial, Senator Bassy’s Counsel, Solomon Umo, SAN, was conspicuously absent. However, the Senior Advocate was represented by Barrister G. A. Umoh, who informed the court that the learned silk was on a national assignment at the Supreme Court, Abuja and apologised for his absence.
“My lord we apologise on behalf of our senior counsel, who is on a national assignment at the Supreme Court. I was informed on short notice to hold the brief for him. I apologise for his absence and apply for adjournment to enable my senior colleague come before you,” Umoh said.
As a result of the unavailability of the defence team to commence with the scheduled trial, the prosecuting counsel Mohammed Abubakar, prayed the court to allow the prosecution amend the charge against the Senator and have him take his plea.
“Your lord since the defense is not ready, I have a six-count amended charge before this honourable court to enable the defendant take his plea in accordance with the provisions of Section 218 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA,” he said’.
One of the amended counts against him reads:
“That you, Albert Bassey, whilst being the Commissioner for Finance, Akwa Ibom State and Chairman of Akwa Ibom State Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee, IMDLCC, sometime in December 2012, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, indirectly took possession of a vehicle (Infinity QX 56 BP) valued at N45,000,000.00 at the instance of one Olajide Jones Omokore (whose companies had contracts with Akwa Ibom State Government at that material time), when you reasonably ought to have known that the said vehicle formed part of proceed of unlawful activity to wit: and you thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.”
Senator Bassey pleaded “not guilty” to the amended six-count charge preferred against him by the Commission.
In view of his plea to the amended charge, the prosecuting counsel, M. Abubakar, prayed the court for a date and a speedy trial to enable the prosecution prove its case against the Senator.
Defence counsel representative, Umoh, quickly prayed the court to uphold the earlier bail granted the Senator by the court.
But the prosecution immediately challenged the submission of the defense and urged the court to discountenance and reject the application.
But after listening to the arguments canvassed by both counsels, the court discharged the bench warrant previously issued against the Senator and was allowed to continue on the earlier bail granted him in the sum of N20 million and one surety in like sum. The surety must have a landed property within the jurisdiction of the Court and verified by the court registrar, who must file the report of the verification.
The case was then adjourned to December 4 and 5, 2019 for trial.
Senator Obong Bassey Albert, popularly known as ‘OBA’ is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for allegedly being in possession of six vehicles worth N204 million, at the instance of one Olajide Omokore, whose companies had contracts with the State Government, at the time.
Investigation revealed that the said vehicles were proceeds of crime and that he committed the offence while he doubled as the Commissioner for Finance Akwa Ibom State and Chairman of Akwa Ibom State Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee, in December 2012.
It is an offence which contravenes the provisions of Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.
The vehicles are, Infinity QX 56 BP, valued at N45 million; Toyota Land Cruiser V8 BP, valued at N40 million; Range Rover, valued at N40 million; Toyota Hiace, High Roof, valued at N27 million; Toyota Hiace High Roof, valued at N16 million and Toyota Hilux 4×4, valued at N36 million.
– Nov. 15, 2019 @ 16:29 GMT |