Former Head of Service (HoS), Mr. Steve Oronsaye, was Wednesday re-arraigned before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of a Federal High Court, Abuja on an amended 35-count charge of stealing and obtaining money by false pretence.
He was re-arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), which in the amended charge dated November 2, 2015, said Oronsaye was being charged along with Osarenkhoe Afe, Fedrick Hamilton Global Services Limited, Cluster Logistic Limitd, Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited, and Drew Investment & Construction Company Limited for stealing.
Only Oronsaye and Afe, who is the managing director of Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited, were present in court. Other defendants were absent.
Prosecuting counsel, Leke Atolagbe, while citing Section 478 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 urged the court “to enter a plea of not guilty for the defendants who are not represented in court, in order that the trial can proceed.”
Counsel to Oronsaye, Joe Agbi (SAN), raised no objections to the application neither did Oluwole Aladedoye, counsel to Afe and Fedrick Hamilton Global Services Limited.
The trial judge, while acceding to the application of the prosecution, ruled that “in the absence of the fourth, fifth and sixth defendants, Section 478 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 shall be applied to each of them, except if it is later shown that they were not served with the amended charges, in the interest of justice.”
Count one of the amended charge reads: “That you Stephen Oronsaye, Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina (now at large) Osarenkhoe Afe and Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited on or about 2nd July, 2010 in Abuja, collaborated in disguising genuine nature of the sum of N161,472,000 derived from an illegal act to wit: conducting procurement fraud by means of fraudulent and corrupt act on the contract extension of biometric enrolment purportedly awarded to Innovative Solutions Limited by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation without following due process and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 14 (1) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.”
Another count reads: “That you Stephen Oronsaye and Abdulrasheed Abdullahi Maina (now at large) between April and May 2010 in Abuja, collaborated in disguising genuine nature an aggregate sum of N131,038,425 derived from an illegal act to wit; conducting procurement fraud by means of fraudulent and corrupt act on the contract of biometric enrolment purportedly awarded to Moshfad Enterprises by the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation without following due process and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 14 (1) (b) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.”
They pleaded “not guilty” to the charges as they were read to them.
Following their plea, Atolagbe asked the court for a date for commencement of trial. He also notified the court that the prosecution had 22 witnesses it intended to use to prove its case.
The defence counsels expressed readiness for the commencement of the trial and applied that Justice Kolawole allow their clients to continue with the earlier bail granted them on July 21, 2015.
The prosecution did not raise any objections to the oral application.
Trial judge acceded to the request and further adjourned to June 9, 2016 for “commencement of judicial trial”.
It would be recalled that Oronsaye first appeared before Justice Kolawole on July 13, 2015, where he was confronted with a 25-count charge, to which along with his co-defendants they pleaded not guilty. The trial judge had fixed February 16, 2016 for them to enter their plea for the amended charges.
The case file, was however, afterwards transferred to Justice J. T. Tsoho of a Federal High Court, Abuja. Presiding over the case for the first time on February 16, 2016, he adjourned to March 1, 2016 for them to take their plea on the amended charges. On the set day, however, rather than begin the proceedings, he simply said: “It has been realized that the case came to me in error, and I’ve been instructed that it should be returned to Justice Kolawole who started it; he should continue where he stopped. I wish you the best of luck.”
Making clarification on the return of the file to him, Justice Kolawole explained that: “the Chief Judge wanted to redistribute cases to new judges transferred to the Federal High Court, in order to decongest the court, but this case file of Oronsaye was taken in error to Justice Tsoho. This explanation becomes necessary so the public will not be wondering why such back and forth movement.”