Justice E. S. Chukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja, has adjourned trial of Sani Lulu Abdullahi, a former President of the Nigeria Football Federation, NFF, and three other former NFF top officials to April 12, 2016, expressing concerns over what seems a deliberate attempt by their counsels to “frustrate” the trial.
Abdullahi and his co-accused persons – Amanze Uchegbulam, a former NFF first vice president; Taiwo Ogunjobi, and Bolaji Ojo-Oba, former NFF secretary-generals, are being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for offences bordering on conspiracy and breach of due process.
The trial judge had at the last sitting on February 22, 2016 dismissed the “no case submission” filed by their counsels and fixed March 9, 2016 for the accused persons to open their defence.
At the resumed sitting, rather than open its defence, Patrick Okolo, SAN, the lead counsel to the four accused persons, told the court that an appeal to the judge’s February ruling had been filed.
“We have an application filed, though a bit late, appealing the ruling, and so continuation of trial will be pending the determination of the appeal,” he said.
Prosecuting counsel, Titus O. Ashaolu, SAN, told the court that: “the application was served on me just this morning”.
Justice Chukwu, expressing his concerns over the new development, noted that while the defence had the right to appeal, it should be on record that the delay was not coming from him.
“I came here to do my job, but now we are going to adjourn because of your appeal, yet people out there will accuse judges of colluding to ensure that trial is frustrated,” he said.
He thereafter adjourned to April 12, 2016 expressing his resolve to ensure that the trial continued.
Lulu and his co-accused persons are alleged to have misappropriated over N1.5billion released by the Federal Government to the NFF during the South Africa 2010 World Cup.
They are accused of siphoning about $125,000 through shoddy hotel bookings in South Africa during the World Cup, $250,000 lost as a result of booking the wrong airline for the trip, $400,000 allegedly expended on the Nigeria/Colombia friendly match and $236,000 which vanished from the coffers of the Glass House in 2009.
They are also accused of flouting due process in the purchase of two Marco Polo buses for the national team, and sharing N185 million amongst state chairmen of the NFF in their bid to frustrate their ouster from the Federation.
Since their trial began in September 2010, they have deployed various legal tactics to frustrate their trial.
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