A state high court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, has issued a warrant of arrest against Cletus Ibeto, a businessman, over his failure to appear before the court for trial.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had filed a 10-count charge against Ibeto, Ibeto Energy Development Company and Odoh Holdings.
The charge borders on obtaining by false pretense, fraudulent conversion of property, criminal breach of trust, forgery and deception.
On October 5, the trial was adjourned till November 3 over the failure of Ibeto, chief executive officer of Ibeto Energy Development Company, to attend the court sitting.
FRIDAY’S COURT PROCEEDINGS
During the proceedings on Friday, Rotimi Jacobs, the prosecution counsel, told the court that the businessman was scheduled for arraignment.
Jacobs said the defendant had been absent at previous sittings on September 28, and October 5, 2023.
“Your lordship will recall that on the 28th of September 2023, this matter came up for arraignment and my friend, Okoko, SAN appeared for the defendants and pleaded with my lord for adjournment till 5th of October 2023 to enable him produce the defendant,” Jacobs said.
“Your lordship graciously granted the request. On the 5th of October, my learned brother silk, Ikpeazu, SAN, came and represented the defendants and also pleaded with your lordship for adjournment on the grounds that he wanted to talk to the prosecution to do a plea bargain.
“Your lordship insisted that the defendant, whatever step to be taken, must be present in court.
“Today, the learned senior advocate did not appear. They now brought another counsel to again say that he is not in court.”
Responding, Dada Awosika, counsel to the defendant, apologised for the absence of his client, adding that the businessman is battling an underlying ailment.
Awosika urged the court to allow the defence team to move an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court on the matter.
Displeased with the proposed application, the EFCC counsel said the court should not take any application until the court assumes jurisdiction first and sees that the arraignment takes place.
Jacobs asked the court to issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the businessman.
But Awosika disagreed, saying the defendant is old and that there is no basis for the bench warrant.
I.O. Ijelu, the trial judge, ruled that there is no cogent reason before the court for the continuous absence of the defendant.
“The application for a bench warrant succeeds,” Ijelu said.
The case was adjourned till November 25.