Andrew Orolua Abuja
Justice A. A. Okeke of the Federal High Court sitting in Uyo, Akwa Ibom state, on Monday ordered the arrest of Senator Albert Bassey and for him to be produced in court on June 24 to face criminal trial.
The order followed an application for a warrant of arrest brought by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) against the senator.
Justice Okeke after taking the arguments of EFCC counsel, Mohammed Abubakar and Samuel Ikpo the counsel to Sen. Bassey, noted that for the interest of justice it was essential to grant the warrant of arrest.
Sen. Bassey popularly is to be arraigned on alleged money laundering charges preferred against him by the anti-graft commission, but he has continued to invaded service.
According to his counsel, Sen. Bassey was not in court because he was not served a copy of the charge. Ikpo also added that he was instructed by his client, to appear in court and receive the charge on his behalf.
However, the prosecution counsel, Mohammed Abubakar opposed the submission, informing the court that all efforts made by the commission to serve the senator were frustrated by him intentionally invading service.
“My lord, since the filling of the charge, the prosecution has made frantic efforts to serve the suspect the charge, but all our efforts proved abortive as the suspect, who has been on administrative bail granted him by the EFCC has jumped bail.
The investigating officer, Osatuyi Ayodele, also placed a call to him on June 6, inviting him to the office so as to be served the charge, but the he failed to show up after he promised that he would.
“One of his (Senator Bassy) lawyers, Ini Utuk, was also contacted on June 7, but equally failed to show up after promising to do so. Till this moment my lord, the suspect has failed to honour the terms of his administrative bail which is to always make himself available.
“In the circumstances my lord, I humbly apply pursuant to Section 113 and 114 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act for this court to issue a warrant for the arrest of the suspect and to produce him before this court,” Abubakar said.
But, the defence counsel however, argued that the charge be given to him since the matter was coming up for the first time before the court and that the suspect was not served the copy of the charge.
“The defendant was sworn in last week in Abuja as a senator. I respectfully, apply that the charge be given to me to hand over to him,” said Ikpo.
Responding on point of law, the EFCC counsel countered the argument of the defence, hinging his arguement on the provisions of Section 114 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.
After listening to both sides, Justice Okeke upheld the arguments of the prosecution, declaring that “Section 114 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act is instructive on this issue.
The court can issue a warrant on the first day depending on the circumstances and nature of the case. One should lead by example and to whom much is given, much is expected.
“Where the defendant found it necessary to attend a legislative function, he should also find it obligatory to honour invitations by law enforcement agencies.
Justice is for all in the temple of justice and if there is any application to be granted in the interest of justice, it should be the application made by the prosecution.
“The court therefore, grants the application and consequently issues a bench warrant against the defendant for his production in this court on the next adjourned date.”
Thereafter, the matter was adjourned to June 24, 2019, for arraignment.