The absence of Mohammed Gobir, a businessman and former boss of Kwara Hotels, has stalled his trial at an Ikeja High Court for allegedly defrauding the Kwara Government of N277million.
During the scheduled proceedings on Monday, Mr Y. A Bayero, Gobir’s counsel told the court that the defendant was absent due to his mother’s ill health.
“Yesterday the first defendant called me that his mother who had been in a coma for two months had gotten worse and he had to rush her from a private hospital to the University of Ilorin Teaching Hospital.
“I don’t want to believe the information that was passed to me this morning that his mother has died.
“I want to urge this honourable court to kindly indulge us with an adjournment in view of the facts just stated,” he said.
Bayero in his submission, also brought to the court’s attention that it was the first time that Gobir will be absent from his criminal trial.
Responding, Mr F. Ofoma, the prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) opposed the defence’s request for an adjournment.
Ofoma said that their third prosecution witness, Mrs Funmilola Adejulu was in court and that the anti-graft agency had to make a formal application to ensure she came to court to be cross-examined by the defence.
“We are just hearing the reason why the defendant is not in court, I don’t know when else our witness will be available,” the EFCC prosecutor said.
Following their submissions, Justice Oyefeso acceded the request of the defence by adjourning the case.
“I will grant the adjournment because this is the first time the defendant will be absent in court.
“This case is adjourned till Oct. 29, Nov. 5 and 6 for continuation of trial,” Justice Oyefeso said.
Gobir, an indigene of Kwara State, and his company Mondial Defence Systems Ltd., are facing a five-count charge of stealing and forgery, slammed against them by the EFCC.
According to Mrs Zainab Ettu, the lead EFCC prosecutor, the offences were committed between November 2012 and January 2014 in Ikeja.
Ettu said: “In November 2012, the defendants dishonestly converted to their use the N92.3 million, property of the Kwara State Government.
“Sometime in 2013, the defendants dishonestly converted N184 million, also belonging to the Kwara State Government.
“The monies were collected under the guise of supplying three units of APCs to the Kwara State Government but the APCs were never supplied.
“The defendants forged three documents, the first on Oct. 10, 2013 titled Letter of Award of Contract with reference number – S/GS/157/7/123.
“The second was on Dec. 28, 2013 a letter titled Letter of Award of Contract with reference number S/GS/157/VII/535.
“The third was on Jan. 17, 2014 titled Letter of Intent with reference number: S/GS/157/T/15.
“The three letters were purportedly from the Office of the Secretary to the Kwara State Government, in relation to the bogus contracts.”
On June 25, Adejulu, an EFCC investigator, in a lengthy testimony, had revealed how Gobir diverted the funds meant for the purchase of Armoured Personnel Carriers for the policing the state to his personal use.
She was to be cross-examined by the defence during Monday’s proceedings which were stalled by Gobir’s absence.
The alleged offences contravenes Sections 285 (9)(b) and 363 (2) (b) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011.