A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja has threatened to issue a warrant of arrest against former Aviation Minister, Stella Oduah and other defendants if they fail to appear in court by the next adjourned date.
Justice Inyang Ekwo gave the warning on Monday after he was informed by Hassan Liman, counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that Oduah and one other defendant were not in court to take their plea.
Oduah, alongside eight other defendants, have been arraigned in court over an alleged N5 billion fraud.
The court had earlier fixed February 9 for the arraignment of the former minister and eight others.
However, Oduah, currently representing the Anambra North Senatorial District at the National Assembly, was not served with the court processes then, hence the arraignment could not go on.
The court also fixed April 19 for the arraignment but the strike embarked upon by members of the Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria delayed the court hearing.
The lawmaker has been accused of fraud alongside others in a suit with the number: FHC/ABJ/CR/316/20.
The anti-corruption agency is alleging that Oduah misappropriated public funds to the tune of N5 billion while serving as Minister of Aviation.
When the matter was called, Liman, who informed that the case was scheduled for arraignment, said the anti-corruption agency had carried out the court order made on February 9.
“On February 22, 2020, my lord made an order of substituted service on the 5th and 6th defendants in the trial.
“We have carried out the order, my lord,” he said.
Justice Ekwo, however, said since the court did not sit on the last adjourned date, Monday’s proceeding should be for a report on the development and another date would be fixed for arraignment.
“How many witnesses are you calling,” the judge asked.
Liman, who said the EFCC would be calling at least 32 witnesses in the trial, said while some of the witnesses were within the court jurisdiction, others were not.
He added that the agency would produce two witnesses on the first day of trial commencement.
The lawyer called the court attention to the fact that Oduah, who is the 1st defendant, and another defendant listed as 4th in the trial were not in court.
“I will fix another date for arraignment and if they like, let them not come,” Ekwo said.
The judge, who told the prosecution lawyer to put his house in order, said “once the plea is taken, I am proceeding with trial.”
Ekwo, therefore, warned that any defendant who is not in court on the next adjourned date would be issued an arrest warrant.
“Apart from the 2nd and 3rd defendants, the other defendants are absent today. This is a note of warning that anyone absent will be issued with a warrant of arrest,” he ruled.
He adjourned the matter until October 19 for arraignment and trial.