By Ebi Perekeme
A Federal High Court sitting in Warri, Delta State, has fixed November 17th, 2020 for the trial of three persons alleged to have been involved in an attempt to defraud and defame the former Vice Chancellor of the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Prof. Maureen Etebu.
The accused, who were arrested by operatives of the Zone 5 of the Nigeria Police Force in Benin, are standing trial for conspiring to extort the sum of N7. 7billion from Prof. Etubu while still serving as the Vice Chancellor of the institution.
The suspects; Dr. Vincent Akpoveta (38yrs), Doboikiabo Warmate (47yrs) and Edgar Daniel Biu (47yrs) allegedly committed the crime in June, 2020.
In the suit marked FHC/WR/66CC/2020, the accused are facing criminal trial on eight-count charge of defamation and extortion which is punishable by section 24(2) (a) (b) (1) of the cybercrime prohibition and Proclamation Act, 2015.
In the suit filed by the Inspector-General of Police.
According to the charge sheet presented in court, the three accused were alleged to have “in June 2020 sent an offensive and obsene mails to the Former Vice Chancellor, Prof. Maureen Etebu thereby committing offences punishable under section 24(a)(b) of the cybercrime Prohibition and Revocation Act.
“That in June, 2020, they sent email to the former Vice Chancellor, Prof. Maureen Etebu with attempt to extort N150, 000,000 from her and another attempt in June, 2020 to extort sum of N200, 000,000 punishable by section 24(2)(a)(b)(6)(1) and (1) of the cybercrime Prohibition Act, 2015.”
Attempts by the Police Prosecution counsel, Barr. N. A Ukpebor to move for the taking of the plea by the accused on the Eight point charges brought against them was argued by the defence counsels on the issue of timing and three days’ rights of the accused between arrest and arraignment.
The trio of Defence counsels, Barr. N. Trofaniowei (4th respondent), Barr. Brave Enodah (3rd respondent) and Barr. N. Ohre (1st respondent), argued that instead of taking the plea from the accused and commence arraignment, the arraignment should be moved till Thursday 12th November, 2020 to allow for the three days right of accused as provided for under section 382(6) of the Criminal Justice Administration Act.
They argued that the three days being sought will allow the accused and their counsel to study the charges brought against them, list of witnesses and the proof of evidence provided by the prosecution.
But the Police Prosecutor, Barr. N. A Ukpebor pleaded with the Presiding Judge that the claims of non-preparedness by the defence counsels based on the accused health status and three days’ rights should be dis countenance as the accused readiness to return to court and take plea may be in doubt.
He pleaded that the Presiding Judge ordered for plea to be taking from the accused and a date can be taking for adjournment.
But the presiding Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Emeka Nwete after hearing the arguments and counter arguments between the prosecuting Counsel, Barr. N. A Ukpebor and the trio of Defence counsels, Barr. N. Trofaniowei (4th respondent), Barr. Brave Enodah(3rd respondent) and Barr. N. Ohre, ordered that the three accused should be produced in Court on the 17th of November, 2020 for plea and proper arraignment.
Justice Nwete warned the defence counsels that if any one of three accused are not present in court on the adjourned date, he ensures that punitive measures are taking against the accused counsels.