The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has accused the defence counsel in the N8bn mutilated currency fraud suit involving some staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria and other commercial banks of attempting to scuttle the trial.
Proceedings were again stalled at the resumed trial before Justice Ayo Emmanuel of the Federal High Court in Ibadan on Tuesday, as applications by counsel for some of the suspects were not heard because some of the processes were either filed late or yet to be filed.
Justice Emmanuel, adjourning the case on Monday till Tuesday, had said that any application that was not in his file before he took his seat would not be entertained.
He also warned both the prosecution and the defence counsels to exchange copies of processes earlier before the court proceedings would begin.
A heated argument, however, ensued on Tuesday over the service of copies between the EFCC lead counsel Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) and Olalekan Ojo, who represented some of the accused persons and had also gone ahead to challenge Justice Emmanuel’s ruling on the bail application in the Appeal Court.
Ojo was said to be calling for a stay of proceedings and challenging the judge’s competence to continue handling the case based on his pronouncement in denying the bail applications of his clients.
In Ojo’s opinion, such “pronouncements are inimical and prejudicial to the rights of the suspects to fair trial or hearing”.
The counsels for Patience Okoro and Ilori Adekunle, Awa Kalu and O.F. Umar respectively, prayed the court to separate their clients from others so that their trial could begin early. Their request was rejected by Justice Emmanuel until October 12, when a decision would be made.
But Jacobs expressed sadness over the ‘delay tactics’ employed by the defendants through their counsels. He wondered why someone who was remanded in prison would be working against accelerated hearing.
Jacobs said, “They (defence counsels) don’t serve processes as at when due. They only come to court to secure adjournment and go home. They have their game plan and that is to ensure that applications are not heard and to make sure that the trial is scuttled. They have successfully done that even till now. Contrary to our agreement and the court order that everyone should file processes at the right time, they (defence counsels) did not, even when we did so.
“The trial is being scuttled because we were supposed to have brought our witnesses three weeks ago. We came with them but our colleagues came with series of applications to ensure that the trial did not commence. Our witnesses are ready but the defence is trying to block their appearance. The defence counsel doesn’t want the matter to go on before the two judges assigned the cases. This old habit will not encourage reform in our justice system.”
In adjourning the case till October 12, Justice Emmanuel blamed both the prosecution and the defence counsels for delaying the trial.
By Patrick Aigbokhan