A former Permanent Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Labour, Clement Onubuogo, was on Wednesday re-arrested at the Federal High Court car park, Lagos by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
Onubuogo was alleged to have shunned EFCC’s invitation over an alleged diversion of N606 million SURE-P funds under his watch.
The accused had appeared before Justice Babs Kuewumi on a different charge filed by the commission.
He was arraigned over alleged non-declaration of some of his hidden cash assets to which he had pleaded not guilty.
According to the EFCC, the ex-Permanent Secretary failed to declare N97 million, $139,000 and 10,000 pounds found in three of his bank accounts.
When the case came up on Wednesday, the accused was present in court, but the EFCC’s counsel was absent.
Onubuogo’s lawyer, A. Dada, informed the court that Onubuogo was “very ill” and asked for an adjournment to enable him to get treatment.
In his response, the judge noted that he had adjourned several cases so that more time could be spent on the trial.
He, however, agreed to adjourn the case as no prosecution counsel was present.
Shortly after the case was adjourned, EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, walked into the courtroom.
The defence counsel, who were already on their way out of the court, also returned to complain to the judge that the accused had been re-arrested.
Dada faulted EFCC for arresting Onubuogo, whom he said was already on court bail and denied that he shunned any invitation by the commission.
Responding, Oyedepo noted that no law forbids anyone undergoing trial from being re-arrested for another criminal matter.
He added: “The money belongs to all of us and we should all support efforts toward recovering it.”
In his ruling, the judge said having adjourned the case, there was nothing he could do about the re-arrest.
Onubuogo had on September 8 objected to EFCC’s application seeking the final forfeiture of N664 million and $138,000 allegedly recovered from him.
The court presided over by Justice Abdulazeez Anka had ordered an interim forfeiture of the money following a motion ex-parte by the EFCC on August 15.
Anka, who ordered the interim forfeiture, also authorised the EFCC to seize a property described as “Clement Illoh’s Mansion” at Ikom Quarters, Issala-Azegba in Delta and a hotel on 19, Madue Nwafor Street, off Achala Ibuzo Road, Asaba, Delta.
Onubuogo’s lawyer, T. S. Awhana, while acknowledging the receipt of the motion for final forfeiture, said he had already filed a counter-affidavit against it.
The lawyer added that he filed a notice of preliminary objection challenging the court’s jurisdiction to make the interim order.
The court had directed the EFCC to notify the Permanent Secretary, in whose possession the property were found, to appear before the court and show cause within 14 days why the property should not be permanently forfeited to the Federal Government.
The judge also directed the publication of the interim orders in any national newspaper for any interested person to appear before the judge to show cause within 14 days why the order should not be made permanent.
An EFCC investigator, Huleji Abraham Tukura, said Onubuogo converted the funds from the N10 billion released by the Federal Government during his supervision of the Subsidy Reinvestment Programme.
Justice Kuewumi adjourned the case until November 30 for trial.
Credit: The eagle online