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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Alleged N5.2m Fraud: How COVID-19 Stalls Trial Of Benue Deputy Speaker, Clerk

Justice S.O Itodo of the Benue State High Court sitting in Makurdi on Monday, July 27, 2020 adjourned a fraud case involving the deputy speaker of Benue State House of Assembly, Christopher Adaji and the Clerk of the House, Torese Agena to October 14, 2020, owing to a report that Adaji had tested positive to the Corona virus pandemic.

At the resumed sitting of the matter on Monday,  counsel to the EFCC, George Chia-Yakua told the court that two of the prosecution witnesses were in court adding that he was ready to proceed with the matter.

However, Barnabas Iorheghem,  holding brief for Sebastine Hon, SAN, counsel to the deputy speaker,  informed the court that his client was not ready to proceed with the case.

“Our lead counsel, S. T Hon, SAN called to inform me that the pandemic had affected his client (who is the deputy speaker and second defendant in this case) as he was tested positive for covid-19, as a result of which the Clerk of the House (who is the first defendant) had been quarantined for 14 days”. He added that, it was in the interest of the public that the court was duly informed and an adjournment sought.

Counsel to Agena, S.E Irabor confirmed the report by Iorheghem,  adding that, “being a principal officer of the house working closely with the deputy speaker,  the Clerk was asked to be quarantined.”

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had on June 17 arraigned the two principal officers of the house for their complicity in an alleged fraud totaling N5,040,950 (Five Million, Forty Thousand, Nine Hundred and Fifty Naira).

Adaji and Agena were arraigned on two count charges bordering on abuse of office and criminal misappropriation of public funds.  They both pleaded “not guilty” to the charges.

Specifically, the deputy speaker, Adaji, was accused of collecting the sum of N4,840,950 (Four Million, Eight Hundred and Forty Thousand, Nine Hundred and Fifty Naira) sometimes in 2019, as money for legislative tour which he did not accomplish but converted to personal use.

In his own case, the Clerk, Agena, was alleged  to have abused his office sometimes in 2019 by taking a bribe to the tune of N200,000 (Two Hundred Thousand Naira). 

Chia-Yakua did not object to the application for adjournment by the defence.

Justice Itodo  thereafter, granted the application and adjourned the matter till October 14, 2020 for trial.


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