By Suleiman Shehu
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), on Friday prayed an Oyo State High Court sitting in Ibadan to convict a former NIHORT Director, Ademola Idowu and former NIHORT Accountant, Isiah Ajisafe of N124 million fraud.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that EFCC is prosecuting Idowu and Ajisafe for allegedly stealing a total sum of N124 million belong to the National Horticultural Research Institutes,Ibadan (NIHORT) while in office.
The EFCC’s counsel, Mr AbdulRasheed Suleiman, while adopting his final written address before the court said the evidence before the court and exhibits tendered by the prosecutio has established that the defendants opened secret accounts where NIHORT’s funds were secretly moved to by the defendants and eventually stolen.
The EFCC’s counsel further said that he has been able to establish to the court that the defendants were the sole signatory to the two secret accounts and as well split contracts which was above their threshold and abused their offices.
Suleiman told the court that the prosecution has discharged and established the guilty of the defendants and urged the court to convict the defendants as charge.
While adopting his final written address, the defendant’s counsel,Mr Femi Oloruntoba,informed the court that Section 36 (5) of the Nigeria’s Constitution presumed innocent of the defendants.
Oloruntoba told the court that the prosecution failed to establish that the money was paid into the defendants’ accounts
He said that since the money was not paid into the defendants accounts it would be difficult for them to steal the money.
Olorutoba said that the prosecution also failed to establish that the defendants abused their offices through splitting of contracts.
He urged the court to dismiss the charge against the defendants.
Justice Munta Abimbola then reserved judgment after listening to the arguments by both counsel to the defendants and prosecution.
Abimbola said that judgment date would be communicated to the counsel.
It would be recalled that the defendants are facing a 17-count charges bordering on conspiracy,stealing and splitting of contracts.
The EFCC’s counsel had earlier told the court that the defendants conspired and fraudulently obtained N158 million belonging to NIHORT from Enterprise Bank and Keystone Bank (formerly BankPHB) between May 2007 and January 2008.
He said the defendants abused their offices by splitting one contract into three.
EFCC further alleged that the defendants awarded the split contract to Onikirp Nigeria Limited in three tranches of N49,913,083, N19,860,509 and N48,554,271, totalling N123.5 million, which are above their approved limits.
The offence, the anti-graft agency said, contravened the provisions of sections 390 and 516 of the Criminal Code, Laws of Oyo State, 2000.
The defendants, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge and granted bail. (NAN)