Court fixes April 15 for further hearing in Cletus Ibeto’s ‘N4.8bn fraud’ case

Kayode Ogundele
Kayode Ogundele

A state high court in Ikeja, Lagos, has fixed April 15 for further hearings in the trial of Cletus Ibeto, a businessman.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had filed a 10-count charge against Ibeto, Ibeto Energy Development Company, and Odoh Holdings.

The charge borders on obtaining by false pretense, fraudulent conversion of property, criminal breach of trust, forgery, and deception.

In November 2023, the court issued a warrant of arrest against Ibeto over his failure to appear before the court for trial.

At the resumed hearing on Monday, Ade Oshodi, the counsel to Ibeto, told the court that a notice of preliminary objection dated January 26 had not been heard.

Oshodi told the court that the application, which was filed by Onyechi Ikpeazu, the former counsel to the defendant, had been withdrawn since he had taken over the case.

The counsel said he had filed a new application dated January 26.

The counsel added that Wole Olanipekun, a senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN), filed an appeal on the arrest warrant issued against the defendant in November 2023.

He said they had written a petition to the office of the attorney-general of Lagos concerning the case.

Rotimi Jacobs, the counsel to the EFCC, said he was not served the hearing notice that the matter had been taken to another court.

Jacobs said several lawyers who had represented the defendant raised the issue of the court’s territorial jurisdiction over the case.

The EFCC counsel said the state government plans to take over the case without hearing from the anti-graft agency.

“As of last week, the defendant has paid N1.5 billion to EFCC, and he promised to conclude the payment in the next three months,” Jacobs said.

During the hearing, Babajide Martins, director of public prosecutions in Lagos, announced his appearance on behalf of the state attorney-general.

Martins told the court that he acted on the directive of the attorney-General, adding that the anti-graft agency had been served with the amicus brief filed by his office.

The brief, dated and filed on February 29, was to the effect that the court should strike out the matter for lacking both territorial and actual jurisdiction.

“The DPP does not need permission to swing into action. My lord, this is an everyday occurrence as people write to the office of the AG to take up matters, and it does not mean that the AG is taking sides with anyone,” he said.

After hearing the arguments, Oyindamola Ogala, the presiding judge, adjourned the case until April 15 to enable her to go through the case files of the various applications submitted by all parties.

Ogala asked all parties to file and exchange responses before the next date of adjournment.

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