Court Orders Ogbulafor’s Trial, To Be Docked 3 May

Justice Ishaku Bello of the FCT High Court, Abuja, this morning granted permission to the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission to prefer charges against the Chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Prince Vincent Ogbulafor. The court charged him with fraud and also fixed 3 May for the PDP’s Chairman arraignment. Mr Ogbulafor is accused of fraudulently awarding $1.5m (£1m) in federal funds when he was a government minister under President Olusegun Obasanjo.

This comes as it appears that tomorrow’s National Executive Committee, NEC, meeting of the party may not succeed in resolving the present impasse occasioned by the moves to ensure the ouster of Ogbulafor, that is, if the NEC meeting is not postponed again.  The outcome might be a stalemate and a resolution that more consultations are needed.

However, a proposed meeting scheduled for yesterday night between Acting President Goodluck Jonathan and the group proposed by founding chairman of PDP, Chief Solomon Lar, may yet come up with a road map that would lead to the resolution of the crisis in the party.

While granting the order this morning, the judge noted that the approval given to the ICPC to prosecute Ogbulafor was a significant part of the criminal proceedings. He ordered that the charges be served on Ogbulafor and four other accused persons.

The court also stated that the ICPC was at liberty to apply for a warrant of arrest if it became obvious that any of the accused persons were not willing to appear before the court or wanted to abscond. 

Ogbulafor is being accused of enriching himself while he was the minister of Special Duties during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration.  Chika Nwadibia had petitioned the ICPC that Emeka Ebilah, who was a member/secretary of National Economic Intelligence Committee (NEIC) that was verifying debts owed local contractors by the Federal Government,  used his office to include the names of his companies and his cronies in the verification exercise.

Ogbulafor, being the one who supervised NEIC, was alleged to have conspired with Ebilah to verify fictitious contracts said to be executed by companies listed by the latter. 

The renewed allegation is said to be a strategy by some members of the PDP who are disenchanted with Ogbulafor’s style of leadership. A splinter group in the PDP which calls itself the PDP Reform Forum, which has Senator Ken Nnamani and Honourable Bello Masari, both former president of the senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives, respectively, as the arrow heads, are at the forefront of the move to oust Ogbulafor as the Chairman of Nigeria’s ruling party.

They accused Ogbulafor of engaging in undemocratic practices, one of which was the decision of the leadership of the party to readmit former Vice-President, Abubakar Atiku into the party.

The stand of  Nnamani, Masari, Adolphus Wabara, Achike Udenwa, Peter Odili, Rochas Okorocha, Raymond Dokpesi and others, has split the party into two.

Among those who have condemned the position of the PDP Renewal Forum are governors elected on the platform of PDP.

When efforts by the party to resolve the crisis created by members of the PDP Renewal Forum failed, the party decided to suspend them.

However, Acting President Goodluck Jonathan has faulted the suspension of the PDP chieftains, saying that some of them were suspended in error.