Lagos AG Interference Stalls Alleged Criminal Arraignment of Businessman, Cletus Ibeto

Moves by the Lagos State Attorney General to take over alleged criminal arraignment of the fugitive businessman, Cletus Ibeto, Chairman of Ibeto Energy Development Company was aborted today before a Special Offences Court in Lagos

At the resumption of matter today, the Lagos State Attorney General, Mr. Lawal Pedro, through the state’s Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, Dr. Jide Martins, informed the trial judge, Justice Ismail Ijelu that the Attorney General, AG, is considering taking over the matter based on a petition written by the defendant.

The proceedings witnessed the defendant being represented by Uche Obi, SAN (the fourth since September 28, 2023).

Cletus Ibeto has failed to appear in court on three occasions, September 28, October 5 and November 3, despite the appearance of a different Senior Advocate of Nigeria representing him.

This prompted Justice Ijelu to declare the businessman wanted on November 3, 2023, for allegedly refusing to appear to take his plea despite many undertakings by his lawyers to produce him in court.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had charged the defendant before the court alongside his companies, Ibeto Energy Development Company and Odoh Holdings Ltd, on a 10-count charge bordering on allegations of conspiracy, fraud, forgery and fraudulent use of documents.

At the resumed hearing of the matter, Martins informed the court of a petition written by the law firm of Robert Clarke (SAN) seeking a review of the case file and the outright taking over of the case by the office of the Attorney-General. The DPP further told the court that although the Ministry of Justice has written to the EFCC requesting the case file, the AG has not decided on the issue.

Based on the development, the defence counsel, Uche Obi (SAN), urged the court to adjourn the case until the issue of legal representation is resolved. Obi said that the DPP had asked for an opportunity to reappraise the complainant’s complaint, and the State had to be given a chance to take that decision.

However, Jacobs pointed out to the judge that four different lawyers had been engaged by the defendant “allegedly in his efforts to scuttle the hearing of the case.” He also submitted that the Lagos State Attorney-General cannot take over the case because the primary counts of the charge are based on Federal laws.

In his ruling, Justice Ijelu noted that the court’s business was for the arraignment of the defendants and that the prosecutor had told the court that the bench warrant could not be enforced because the defendant was out of the country. The judge also noted that the defence counsel had informed the court that the defendant was in Dallas, United States of America, for a life-threatening ailment.

The judge held that the issue of representation by the prosecutor on record and that of the AG has become an issue and has to be resolved. Justice Ijelu, therefore, adjourned the case to January 29, 2024, for the resolution of representation and prosecution of the defendant.