The commencement of the trial of businessman Chief Cletus Ibeto and his company, Ibeto Energy Development Company, before the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja, has once more been postponed due to the absence of the defendants.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had charged Ibeto and his company with ten counts, including offenses related to obtaining by false pretense, fraudulent property conversion, criminal breach of trust, forgery, and deception. Also named in the charges is another company associated with Ibeto, Odoh Holdings Ltd.
The case is currently before Justice Ismail Ijelu of the criminal division of the Lagos High Court in Ikeja. The court had previously adjourned the arraignment to October 5, 2023, due to the defendants’ non-appearance. During that adjournment, Ibeto’s counsel requested additional time on medical grounds to ensure his client’s presence.
At the October 5 hearing, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), the defendants’ counsel, cited Ibeto’s health as the reason for his absence and requested another adjournment. In response to the defendants’ absence, Rotimi Jacob (SAN), the prosecutor and EFCC’s counsel, reminded the court that the previous adjournment was also due to the defendants’ non-appearance but reluctantly agreed to another adjournment to allow Ibeto to attend.
Ikpeazu informed the court that the defendants had initiated discussions with the prosecution for a potential out-of-court settlement, and the process was ongoing.
Expressing disapproval of the defendants’ approach, Justice Ijelu stated that the court could not assume jurisdiction over the case until the defendants appeared to enter a plea. The judge reminded Ibeto’s counsel that the court had previously adjourned the case twice at the request of the defendants, emphasizing that if they wished to explore an out-of-court settlement, they must first appear for trial.
The court has rescheduled the case for a definite arraignment of the defendants on November 3, 2023.