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Alleged N4.8bn Fraud: Court Adjourns Ibeto’s Appeal To Sept. 16

He also wrote a petition against the judge alleging bias, a situation which led to the transfer of the case file to a new trial judge, Justice Oyindamola Ogala.

The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos has adjourned till September 16, the hearing of the appeal filed by the Chairman of Ibeto Energy Development Company, Cletus Ibeto, challenging the jurisdiction of the State High Court to try him over an alleged N4.8 billion fraud.

Justice Muhammed Mustapha who presided over the appellate court adjourned the appeal to await the report of settlement talks between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the appellant.

EFCC had charged Ibeto alongside his companies, Ibeto Energy Development Company and Odoh Holdings Ltd, on a 10-count charge of conspiracy, fraud, forgery, and fraudulent use of documents before the Lagos High Court, Ikeja.

Justice Ismail Ijelu had ordered Ibeto’s arrest after the businessman failed to appear in court on at least four occasions to take his plea over the alleged fraud charge against him despite repeated hearing notices served on him.

Dissatisfied with the order for his arrest and the refusal of the court to hear his preliminary objection, the defendant filed an appeal before the Appeal Court, formulating seven grounds for appeal.

He also wrote a petition against the judge alleging bias, a situation which led to the transfer of the case file to a new trial judge, Justice Oyindamola Ogala.

At the proceedings before the appeal court on Tuesday, Justice Mustapha sitting alongside other panel members, Justice Abdullahi Mahmud Bayero, and Justice Paul Bassi suspended the enforcement of the bench warrant issued on November 3, 2023, against the appellant by Justice Ijelu.

The justices suspended the warrant after Ibeto’s lawyer, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Chief Wole Olanipekun, and the EFCC’s counsel, Adebisi Adeniyi, informed the court that the parties are in the process of settling the matter and that the appellant has so far refunded about N1.7 billion to the Commission.

Adeniyi particularly informed the court that the appellant had been making payments in line with the settlement proposal agreed upon between the parties and it might therefore not be appropriate to go ahead with the appeal as it had become an academic exercise.

He also said that the prosecution had filed an affidavit showing the settlement and all that has transpired in the matter so far. He said between the last adjourned date and now, the appellant had paid an additional N200m.

Responding, Chief Olanipekun confirmed that the parties are settling the matter in line with a judgment of the Rivers State High Court.

He, however, urged the court to vacate the bench warrant against his client since the Appeal Court is now seized of the matter.

In a short ruling, Justice Mustapha suspended the enforcement of the order, saying that the warrant of arrest cannot continue to hang over the appellant’s head since he had started settling the matter out of court.

He held, “The bench warrant is now suspended and we encourage parties to continue with the negotiations until the next adjourned date of September 16”.

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