Justice Ademola Adeniyi of the Federal High court Abuja has warned that he would issue a bench warrant for the arrest of Chidi Adabanya and eleven other accused persons in the N1.9billion Shell Gbaran- Ubie Gas Project if they fail to appear in court on November 17, 2014.
He gave the warning after counsel for the accused persons, Barrister O. O Otemu told the court that he was informed by the surety to the first accused that Adabanya could not make it to court because he is hospitalized in Enugu as he suffered stroke, being a high blood pressure and Diabetes patient. He further informed the court that his telephone conversation with the other accused persons indicated that they were not aware that the matter was slated for arraignment today as they were not served. He however admitted that he was served on October 16.
Outraged by the explanation, the prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, informed the court, that the information about the first accused could not be true as Chidi Adabanya appeared before the House of Representatives on 15th October and he also granted a radio interview last week on the matter before this court.
Expressing his displeasure, Jacobs informed the court that Adabanya had written petitions against him on the matter, to the National Judicial council, the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA and the House of Representatives among others.
Jacobs also informed the court that the accused persons were aware of the court proceedings today and had failed to appear as they did at the last two adjourned dates, with the exception of the seventh accused. He then prayed the court to issue a bench warrant for their arrest.
The accused persons who had been facing a 22-count charge of money laundering preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, were expected to be re-arraigned following the re-assignment of the case to a new judge after the former trial judge, Justice Gladys Olotu retired from the bench.
When the matter was called today, only the seventh accused person, Benneth Ezekiel Hart was in court alongside his counsel Dr, Ikenna Ihezue. Barrister Otemu, appeared for the third accused, Forstech Technical Nigeria Limited, but informed the court he would hold brief for the other accused persons.
Prior to calling the criminal case against the accused persons, the court had entertained an Asset forfeiture matter between the State vs. Gastroil Ventures and C S Total Limited.
It will be recalled that in 2012, a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos had ordered that the StanbicIBTC Bank account of Gastroil Ventures Limited be freezed at the instance of the EFCC, after it was linked as recipient of proceeds of crime. That proceeds of crime allegedly emanated from Forstech Technical Nigeria Limited, the ghost company at the centre of the Gbaran –Ubie Gas Project Scam. However, a Federal High Court in Lagos which was unaware of the criminal charge pending before a sister court in Abuja lifted the freeze order but the EFCC swiftly applied for the the order to be reinstated.
To enable the court do justice in the cases since they were related, Justice Ademola adjourned the two matters toNovember 17, 2014 after counsel to Gastroil Ventures claimed that he was not aware that his client (Gastroil Ventures) was involved in a criminal matter.
According to Justice Ademola “the criminal charge is hereby adjourned to 17th of November 2014 for arraignment of all accused persons, the counsel to the 3rd accused should inform all the accused persons except the 7thaccused. Hearing notices should be issued again, failing to appear, the court will issue a bench warrant for their arrest”.
Chidi Adabanya, a former employee of Shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, who, along with some officials of the Bayelsa State Government, allegedly obtained the sum of N1.9billion from the oil company through a phony consultancy contract for development permit in the Gbaran- Ubie project.
Adabanya was charged together with Forstech Technical Nigeria Limited, Gastroil Ventures Limited, Andrew Feyaikebena Ebakpa; Ibe Uzoma, Ezekiel Benneth Hart, Presley Ebakpa, Kwokwo Bolouwenimo and Kwokwo Ebikibina, Bikyiis Integrated Services Limited and Fambo Integrated Services Limited, before Justice Gladys Olotu on June 18, 2012 on a 22-count charge that borders on money laundering the matter was transferred to Justice Ademola Adeniyi when Olotu the former trial Judge retired.