By Unini Chioma
Justice Ismail Ijelu of the Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja on Friday ordered the arrest of the Chairman of Ibeto Energy Development Company, Cletus Ibeto, for allegedly refusing to appear in court for his fraud trial.
Justice Ijelu issued the bench warrant after a motion moved by the counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), who informed him that the defendant had flagrantly failed and refused to appear in court, despite repeatedly hearing notice served on him.
The EFCC had charged the defendant alongside his companies, Ibeto Energy Development Company and Odoh Holdings Ltd, over an alleged N4.8 billion fraud.
The anti-graft agency filed a 10-count charge of conspiracy, fraud, forgery, and fraudulent use of documents.
The defendant’s arraignment was stalled on September 28 and October 5 due to his failure to appear in court, although he was represented by his lawyers.
On two occasions, his lawyer, Dr Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), informed the judge that his client was absent due to ill health. He, however, promised to produce him yesterday.
However, when the matter was called on Friday, he was represented by another counsel, Daniel Awosika (SAN), who told the court that the defendant was sick and could not attend court.
Following the development, Jacobs urged the court to issue a bench warrant for the arrest of the businessman.
Jacobs claimed that the defendant was in Lagos, and the commission could have arrested him, but it did not have the order of the court to do so.
He stated, “Senior lawyers can not come to court and waste the court’s time. We urge the court to grant us a warrant of arrest to force the defendant to court,” Jacob said.
In his ruling, Justice Ijelu held that the defence counsel did not adduce any compelling reason for him to grant his request for adjournment.
The judge further stated that the court did not exist for frivolities as it only existed for dispensing justice.
“The defence counsel decided to waste the court’s time. The court is the symbol of the state and not an object of ridicule.
“Although the senior counsel appeared in this matter for the first, two senior counsel have previously occurred and promised that the defendant will appear for his arraignment.
“In the absence of any cogent excuse to produce the defendant for arraignment, a bench warrant is hereby issued against the defendant,” the court ruled.
Justice Ijelu has adjourned the matter to November 15 for the arraignment of the defendant.