Counsel's Absence Stalls Trial of Alleged N100m Kwara Bursary Scam
The trial of the immediate past Chairperson of Kwara State Scholarship Board, Hajia Fatima Yusuf and two others slated for today could not go on afterall. Although, all parties in the case were present in court, however the case could not hold as counsel to Hajia Yusuf, Y. O Ahmed was conspicuously absent. No reason was given for his absence.
The Ilorin Zonal Office of the EFCC is prosecuting Hajia Yusuf, alongside Fatai Lamidi, former Executive Secretary of the Board and its Accountant, Ajewole Stephen, on a seven count charge bordering on stealing, fraudulent conversion of Government's fund and forgery before Justice Sikiru Oyinloye of the Kwara State High Court sitting in Ilorin. While Hajia Yusuf is listed as first defendant, Lamidi and Stephen appeared as 2nd and 3rd defendants, respectively on the charge sheet.
The three accused persons allegedly diverted state funds to the tune of N100million meant for payment of 2018 bursary allowances to students of Kwara State origin in various tertiary institutions.
Counsel to the EFCC, O. B Akinsola, had while announcing her appearance told the court that her witnesses were in court, adding that the prosecution was ready to proceed.
Saka Isau (SAN) and Adewale Olatunde also announced their appearances for 2nd and 3rd defendants, respectively. But, Hajia Yusuf was not legally represented at the sitting.
Following the absence of counsel to the first defendant, Akinsola told the court that it would be in the interest of fair hearing to seek an adjournment for the defendant to be present in court with her counsel during trial, to which the two other defence counsel aligned.
In the circumstance, the court adjourned to January 26, 2021 for continuation of hearing.
Count two of the charge reads:
"That you, Fatimah Yusuf, ( While being the Chairman, Kwara State Scholarship Board), Fatai Lamidi, (While being the Executive Secretary Kwara State Scholarship Board), and Ajewole Stephen, (while being the Accountant, Kwara State Scholarship Board), between the months of November 2018 and May 2019, in Ilorin, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, while acting in that capacity and entrusted with N50,000,000.00 ( Fifty Million Naira) for the payment of 2018 bursary awards to 10,000 Students who are indigenes of Kwara State, dishonestly disposed of N6,269,950 out of the above sum in violation of the direction of law prescribing the mode the trust is to be discharged, thereby committed criminal breach of trust punishable under Section 315 of the Penal Code.”
Particulars of count seven read:
"That you, Fatimah Yusuf, (While being the Chairman, Kwara State Scholarship Board), Fatai Lamidi, (While being the Executive Secretary Kwara State Scholarship Board) Ajewole Stephen, (While being the Accountant, Kwara State Scholarship board) between the months of November 2018 and May 2019 in Ilorin, within the jurisdiction of this Honourable Court, while acting in that capacity fraudulently used as genuine forged documents of accounts titled “List of 2018 bursary award payment vouchers” which you knew to be forged and thereby committed an offence contrary to Section 366 of the Penal Code and punishable under Section 364 of the same law."
The defendants who were arraigned on January 15, 2020 had pleaded not guilty to the counts.
It would be recalled that, some of the affected students called as witnesses in the previous sittings had told Justice Oyinloye that their names and matriculation numbers appeared as beneficiaries of the bursary allowance, but were never paid.
Source: EFCC News