Mr. Dele Belgore, former governorship aspirant in Kwara State who is under trial for an alleged fraud to the tune of N450m, has urged the court to permit him to attend the graduation of his daughter in the United Kingdom.
In an application by his lawyer, Mr. Ebun Shofunde (SAN), on Monday, Belgore, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), urged the court to order the release of his passport to enable him to attend the graduation ceremony fixed for July 4, 2018.
His daughter, he said, will be graduating as a medical doctor from the University of London, UK.
The SAN said he also wishes to use the opportunity to visit his doctor in the UK for a medical check-up in the last week of August “once the doctors resume from their annual vacation”.
The prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, however, opposed Belgore’s application for the release of his passport.
Oyedepo contended that since Belgore had an earlier application urging the court to quash the charges against him because of an alleged irregularity, he had no right to seek favour from the court until his application is decided.
“Can a party challenging the validity of proceedings be asking for favour from the same court?” the prosecutor queried.
Justice Rilwan Aikawa adjourned till Thursday to take Belgore’s two applications — one praying for the charges to be quashed, the other seeking permission to attend his daughter’s graduation in the UK.
Meanwhile, Belgore’s co-defendant, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, a former Minister of National Planning, has hired Mr. Tayo Oyetibo (SAN), a protégé of the late iconic human rights, Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), as his new lawyer.
Oyetibo’s entrance into the defence team followed the withdrawal of Mr. Olatunji Ayanlaja (SAN), who was Sulaiman’s original counsel.
At Monday’s proceedings, a lawyer from Oyetibo’s law firm, Mr. Olaniran Obele, appeared for Sulaiman, while a female lawyer from Ayanlaja’s chambers who identified herself only as Onakoya, told the court of her principal’s application seeking to withdraw his services from the ex-minister.
As the prosecutor, Oyedepo, argued that the application had been overtaken by events since another counsel had appeared for Suleiman, Justice Aikawa eventually struck it out — after Onakoya had asked for the withdrawal of same.
The EFCC is prosecuting Belgore and Sulaiman for allegedly receiving a sum of N450m from a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, in the buildup to the 2015 general elections.
The anti-graft agency claimed that they ought to have “reasonably known” that the N450m was part of proceeds of unlawful activities, adding that they handled the money without going through any financial institution, contrary to the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
But the defendants pleaded not guilty