On Thursday, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) informed Justice Oyindamola Ogala of the Lagos High Court in Ikeja that Cletus Ibeto, the Chairman of Ibeto Energy Development Company, has reimbursed the commission the sum of N2.250 billion. This revelation came from EFCC’s counsel, Senior Advocate of Nigeria Rotimi Jacobs, during the ongoing trial of Ibeto and his companies, Ibeto Energy Development Company and Odoh Holdings Ltd, concerning an alleged N4.8 billion fraud.

The EFCC has charged Ibeto and his companies with a 10-count indictment, including conspiracy, fraud, forgery, and the fraudulent use of documents. Despite these charges, the arraignment of the defendant has faced repeated delays, with at least seven instances of Ibeto failing to appear in court, although his legal representatives have been present.

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In the latest court proceedings, Jacobs revealed a predicament faced by the EFCC: the defendant’s persistent absence from court. Instead, Ibeto has been engaging directly with the commission to discuss how to resolve his debt. Jacobs addressed the court, stating, “We need to know what their plans are. Are they planning to continue with the litigation, or do they want to sit with the prosecution and complainant to negotiate an out-of-court settlement?” He added that Ibeto has repaid a substantial portion of the alleged debt, raising questions about whether this repayment should be treated as an exhibit in court or as part of a commitment to settle the matter out of court. Jacobs also highlighted the defense’s ongoing legal maneuvers, including filing various applications challenging the court’s jurisdiction.

The defense counsel, Adebayo Oshodi, did not directly address the EFCC’s statements. Instead, he sought permission from the court to reinstate an application that contested the court’s territorial jurisdiction—a motion he had previously withdrawn voluntarily. Jacobs opposed this request, arguing that once the application was withdrawn and struck out, it could not be reintroduced in the same court. Justice Ogala concurred with Jacobs, emphasizing that since the defense had voluntarily withdrawn the application, it could not be relisted.

Justice Ogala expressed her dissatisfaction with Ibeto’s behavior, noting his refusal to appear in court while he continued to engage with the EFCC to repay the funds in question. She emphasized that her primary focus was the case before her and refrained from commenting on the potential out-of-court settlement discussions between the prosecution and defense.

During the proceedings, the lawyers informed Justice Ogala that an appeal challenging the court’s jurisdiction is still pending before the Court of Appeal. Consequently, Justice Ogala adjourned the case to October 24 for further hearing.

The ongoing legal battle involving Cletus Ibeto highlights significant issues within Nigeria’s judicial system, particularly regarding high-profile financial crimes. The case has drawn considerable public attention due to the substantial amounts involved and the high stature of the individuals and companies implicated. As the court proceedings continue, the public remains keenly interested in the outcomes and their implications for the fight against corruption in Nigeria.