Absence of defence counsel stalls Senator Albert Bassey’s trial

Senator Bassey Albert claims that he has transferred a N100million hospital project to Senator Godswill Akpabio
Senator Bassey Albert

The money laundering trial of Senator Obong Albert Bassey before Justice Agatha A. Okeke of the Federal High Court, Uyo, Akwa Ibom State was stalled on Thursday October 21, 2021 following the absence of his counsel, Solomon Umoh SAN. Barrister Aniema Etuk who held the brief of the lead defence counsel, informed the court that the learned silk was sick and couldn’t make it to court. He further told the court he was ill-prepared to proceed with the matter as he did not have the facts of the case. He offered to withdraw from the matter.

But the prosecuting counsel Ekele Iheanacho opposed the request of the defence and urged the court to dismiss the same on the grounds that the defence had continuously come up with excuses to delay trial.

After listening to the arguments of counsel, Justice Okeke refused the application of the defence citing provision of section 349(8) of the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act which requires the defence to inform the court at least three days before such withdrawal.

The Judge therefore ordered the defendant to enter the dock and open his defence.

But Senator Albert Bassey pleaded with the court to adjourn to October 22, to enable him to come to court with another lawyer. “My Lord, I don’t want to work with this counsel. Please my Lord adjourn the matter to enable me bring a new lawyer”.

Justice Okeke refused his request but adjourned the matter to Friday October 22, 2021.

When the matter was called today, the lead defence counsel, Solomon Umoh (SAN) who was said to be sick the previous day, announced his presence. The learned silk immediately apologised to the court for his absence on Thursday, but informed the court that he still could not proceed with the matter due to his ill health.

Justice Okeke granted his request for a new date and adjourned the case till November 29, 2021 for continuation of defence.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, is prosecuting Senator Albert Bassey on six counts of Money Laundering, arising from the allegation that he took possession of six vehicles worth N204million, at the instance of one Olajide Omokore, whose companies had contracts with the State Government, at the time.

Investigations revealed that the said vehicles were proceeds of crime and that he committed the offence while he served as Commissioner for Finance, Akwa Ibom State and Chairman of Akwa Ibom State Inter-Ministerial Direct Labour Coordinating Committee, in December 2012. The offence contravenes Section 15 (2) (d) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2011 (as amended) and punishable under Section 15 (3) of the same Act.