A 32-year-old businessman, Lateef Abayomi Hussein, was on Thursday, March 21 convicted in absentia after being found guilty in a case of fraud brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Mohammed Owolabi of the Oyo State High Court pronounced Lateef guilty of dodging the payment for the 33,000 litres of fuel he supposedly bought from Dees Travels and Tours Limited.
Based on the petition from the complainant, the EFCC’s Ibadan zonal office had, on August 28, 2017, arraigned Lateef on a three-court charge bordering on stealing, obtaining under false pretence and issuance of dude cheque.
The court granted him bail, and he was regularly attending his trial until after the matter was slated for judgement when he stopped coming to court.
The presiding judge had to shift the judgement twice (March 15 and March 18, 2019) at his instance. He, however, still chose to stay away, prompting the judge to give the judgement on Thursday, even when the accused was still not present.
According to the allegation against him, the convict contracted Travels and Tours Limited sometimes in November 2016 to supply him 33,000 litres of diesel valued at N6,435,000 (Six Million, Four Hundred and Thirty Five Thousand Naira Only). But he failed when it was time for him to pay as the Diamond Bank cheque he issued was not honoured on presentation due to insufficient balance in his account.
The complainant further alleged that subsequent efforts to make him pay the money proved abortive.
Even his lawyer, Oluwaseun Fadele, could not hide his disappointment on Thursday as he told the court frankly that he contacted his client before the first and second adjournments and that he promised to attend his trial.
The EFCC’s Counsel, Sanusi Galadanchi consequently prayed the court to proceed with the judgment since Lateef had decided to jump the bail granted him, and the case had been adjourned twice at his instance.
While delivering his judgement, Justice Owolabi found Lateef guilty on the first and second count charge of stealing, contrary to Section 390 (9) of the Criminal Code Act, Cap C38, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004; and obtaining money under false pretence, contrary to Section 1 (2) of the Advanced Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act, 2006 and punishable under Section 1 (3) of the same Act. He was, however, discharged on third court charge bordering on issuance of dude cheque.
The court has also issued a bench warrant against the convict, and reserved his sentence till when he is either arrested or he surrenders himself to the court.