Justice Ayokunle Faji of a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has issued a summon order requesting that the former Secretary of the National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS), Dr. Olufemi Martins Thomas, appears to open his defence over N2.1billion fraud allegation.
The judge summon was sequel to series of set back the case has suffered at the instance of his absence to attend trial after dismissing his “no case submission” since March 30, 2020.
Dr. Thomas is standing trial alongside Kabiru Sidi, a Bureau De Change operator, on an amended seven-count charge bordering on money laundering brought against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
At the commencement of proceedings yesterday, Thomas’ counsel, Kunle Gbolahan was in court, but the second defendant’s lawyer was not.
Reacting to the development, EFCC counsel, Mr. Ekele Iheanacho, who noted that the day’s proceedings was for Dr Thomas to open his defence, blamed the defence for the several delays in proceedings.
According to the prosecutor, the defendants seemed to always come up with one reason or the other to abort proceedings.
He lamented that he had to travel to and fro Abuja for each court date, accusing the defendants of holding everyone to ransom.
He stated that he would have applied for the revocation of the defendants’ bail, but for the explanation of the Dr. Thomas counsel who approached him in the morning explaining that they were not aware of the day’s trial date.
He threatened to make a formal application for revocation of the defendants’ bail and issuance of bench warrants for their arrest if they failed to appear for trial at the next adjourned date.
In a counter reaction, Dr. Thomas counsel, Kunle Gbolahan apologised to the court for his absence, adding that he was only aware of the 24 and 26th November dates and not the day’s proceedings.
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Responding, the Judge warned the defendants not to take the court for granted.
He said the court would issue a summons to be served on the defendants for the next hearing date adding that their failure to attend court would leave the court with no other choice than to revoke their bails.
The court directed the prosecutor to serve the defendants with the summons and adjourned till December 3, 2021.