A Federal High Court in Lagos, yesterday, directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to provide the defence team in the on-going trial of a former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide, accused of an alleged N650 million fraud, with all necessary documents.
The trial judge, Justice Muslim Hassan, gave the directive after the defence lawyers in the case, led by Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) informed the court that they had yet to be served with certain documents, including report of investigation, which the prosecution intended to rely upon in the case.
The former minister, a former Senator representing Oyo Central Senatorial District, Ayo Ademola Adeseun and a politician, Chief Olanrewaju Otiti, are standing trial before the court on a 24-count charge of alleged N650 million fraud.
The accused persons were also accused of conspiring to directly take possession of N650million, which they reasonably ought to have known, forms part of the proceeds of an unlawful act.
According to the EFCC, they allegedly received the money from Mrs Alison-Madueke in the build- up to the 2015 general election.
The money was said to be part of a larger sum of $115 million allegedly doled out by Mrs Alison-Madueke to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election.
However, they all pleaded not guilty to the charge.
At the resumed hearing of the case on Thursday, however, Ayorinde and other defence lawyers, Michael Lana and Oladeji Akinola, objected to the competence of an investigative officer with the EFCC, Usman Zakari, to testify as a witness in the case.
They argued that Zakari’s statement was not frontloaded as part of the proof of evidence made available to them by the prosecution.
They also insisted that allowing the investigator to testify as such would breach their clients’ right to fair hearing under Section 36 of the Constitution.
The lawyers cited Section 379 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 to buttress their argument.
However, the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, maintained that the prosecution had complied with the requirement of Section 379.
Also during yesterday’s proceedings, Lana, who is the counsel to the second defendant, had told the court about an application by the third defendant, seeking the return of the case to Ibadan.
Lana stated that his own client had also written to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, asking him to transfer the matter to Ibadan for convenience.
He pointed out that for his client to effectively defend himself, he would need to call no fewer than 65 party leaders in Ibadan as witnesses.
He said it would not be convenient to bring the 65 party leaders from Ibadan to Lagos.
Responding, Oyedepo said he had neither been served with the second defendant’s application for transfer, nor had received a copy of the third defendant’s letter to the CJ.
He noted that the case, which was formerly in Ibadan, was transferred to Lagos at the instance of the defendants, particularly the first defendant.
While ruling on the two issues, Justice Hassan said he was satisfied that the prosecution had complied with Section 379 of the ACJA, and that the investigator, Zakari, was competent to testify.
On the issue of transferring the case to Ibadan, the judge held that he is yet to receive the second defendant’s application, adding that the third defendant’s letter could only be determined by the CJ.
He directed the witness to proceed into the witness box.
But the case could not go on because shortly after being sworn on oath and making preliminary introduction, Zakari was cut short in his testimony by the defence counsel, who objected to his line of testimony.
Zakari had started his testimony by saying, “I know the defendant. Sometime early 2015, the Commission received an intelligence, a top classified Category A intelligence, that sometime late 2014 – that should be in December – there was a meeting at the residence of the then Petroleum Minister…”
But he was interrupted by Lana, who argued that the fact was not in the proof of evidence supplied by the EFCC.
The other defence counsel aligned themselves with him.
After long arguments, the judge said he would adjourn the case till Friday (today) for the prosecutor to serve the defence with all necessary documents.
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