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Alleged fraud: Counsel’s absence stalls Shema’s trial

Olaide Oyelude, Katsina

The trial of a former governor of Katsina State, Ibrahim Shema, at the state high court for alleged fraud while in office was on Thursday stalled by the absence of his counsel.

The defence counsel, led by a former President of Nigerian Bar Association, Joseph Daudu, were reported to be at another trial involving Shema at the Court of Appeal in Kaduna.

Justice Maikata Bako, presiding at the high court, consequently adjourned the case till April 15, 2019.

Shema is being prosecuted alongside three other accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over alleged misappropriation of N10.8bn belonging to the state chapter of the Association of Local Governments of Nigeria during his regime.

The other three accused are a former Commissioner for Local Government Affairs, Sani Makana, ex-ALGON state chairman, Lawal Dankaba, and a former Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Local Governments, Lawal Rufai.

At the commencement of the court’s sitting, the state attorney general and Commissioner for Justice, Ahmad El-Marzuq, introduced the prosecution team, which included the lead counsel, Sam Ologunorisa, SAN.

Justice Bako asked Ologunorisa if the prosecution team was aware of an application brought by Shema’s counsel and other accused, requesting for the adjournment of sitting till another date.

Ologunorisa denied receiving the application but said another counsel in the prosecution team, Offem Uket, said he received a call from a lady, purportedly from Daudu’s chambers on Wednesday concerning the issue.

Ologunorisa said he saw the application as a trap but would not make any consequential request so that the judge would not be accused of being biased.

He told the court, “As a prosecuting team, we are seeing this application for the first time. We were not obliged and nobody called me. But my learned friend, Offem Uket, told me that when he was almost in Katsina yesterday (Wednesday), he got a call from a lady from Joseph Daudu’s chambers on their request for adjournment.

“My Lord, the prosecution team is equally represented in Kaduna. All of us do not abandon this court and go to Kaduna.

“My Lord, this letter is a choice the defence team has taken to ensure this matter does not go on today. We urge your Lordship to condemn it so that it does not repeat itself.”

Justice Bako, while adjourning, urged all parties involved to be more committed to the case.

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