N650m fraud: Jumoke Akinjide’s lawyer seeks Lagos court’s movement to Ibadan
By Sandra Umeh & Adaeze Iroha
Lagos, March 8, 2018 (NAN) A frantic effort was made on Thursday by lawyers to get the Federal High Court in Lagos to move its sitting to Ibadan in the ongoing trial of former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Jumoke Akinjide for alleged N650 million fraud.
The judge, however, ruled that trial would continue on March 9 in Lagos.
Akinjide is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) along with a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who is said to be “at large”.
Also charged with them are a former Senator, Ayo Adeseun, and a Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chieftain, Olarenwaju Otiti.
The accused are charged with conspiring to directly take possession of N650 million which they reasonably ought to have known formed part of proceeds of an unlawful act and without going through a financial institution.
When continuation of trial resumed on Thursday, Counsel to the second accused, Mr Michael Lana, informed the court that a letter had already been written to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court for the court’s sitting to be moved to the Ibadan Division.
According to Lana, the second accused is charged with offences which consequently require the defence to produce witnesses in about 11 local governments areas of Ibadan, saying the defence has numerous witnesses to call.
“We are not seeking a transfer of this case to another judge or court; we are only seeking a change of venue for My Lord, Justice Hassan, to seat in Ibadan via a fiat.”
Besides, the defence counsel also told the court that he had also filed a motion dated March 7, seeking an order of the court, directing the complainant to supply those document referred to but not supplied in the proof of evidence.
Citing a Supreme Court decision in the case of Okoye Vs C. O. P as well as the provisions of Sections 379 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, he urged the court to hear his application before a further prosecution witness is called.
In the same vein, the third defence counsel, Mr Akinola Oladeji, indicated that he had an application seeking that the charges against the third accused be quashed, or in the alternative, that the case be transferred to the Ibadan Division.
According to him, the third accused intends to call at least 65 witnesses from nine council areas where she served, including party leaders, chairmen and other witnesses.
“I respectfully urge the court to be mindful of the Latin maxim “hastina litin” which according to him, means “hasten slowly”.
Olajide added that prosecution witnesses were intended to give evidences in connection with their investigations, adding that the defence was at a“complete loss”as to the document sought to be tendered, noting they were not attached to the proof of evidence.
He urged the court to be mindful of the position of the law.
In relation to defence’s application for supply of document to be relied on by prosecution witnesses, Counsel to the first accused, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN), also agreed with the submissions of other defence counsel.
He urged the court to exhibit caution in looking at the application before it.
Responding, the EFCC Prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, said he had yet to receive the motion referred to by the counsel to the second accused.
He said he was not aware of the letter written to the Chief Judge as stated by second defence counsel, adding that the instant charge which began in Ibadan was transferred twice at the instance of the defence counsel.
Oyedepo conceded that in line with Sections 379 of the ACJA 2015, the prosecution had duly complied with the provisions of the law by supplying the defence a summary of the statement of the proposed prosecution witnesses.
He referred the court to go through the proof of evidence.
In a short ruling, Justice Hassan held that the court had yet to see the application of the second accused or the letter, and so, could not make any pronouncement on same.
Meanwhile, the court held that in its view, the prosecution had complied with the provisions of the law since the document sought to be relied on by the second prosecution witness was listed in the proof of evidence.
The court then urged the prosecutor to call its second witness (PW2), who swore to the Holy Quran, and in his evidence-in-chief, he introduced himself as Mr Usman Zakari, an EFCC operative, who is saddled with investigations of economic and financial crimes.
Oyedepo asked: Do you know the defendants?
The witness replied in the affirmative and further explained that early 2015, the commission received a “Top classified category A intelligence”, stating that sometime in December 2014, there was a meeting at the residence of the then Minister of Petroleum Resources (Allison-Madueke).
Before the witness could proceed further with his evidence, the second defence counsel, (Lana) raised an objection.
“My Lord, what the witness has just said is completely not in the proof of evidence; there is no where it is mentioned in the proof of evidence.
“You see, this is what we were saying all along.”
The prosecutor urged the court to allow the witness to emphasize the “punch line” of his testimony before the defence’s objection.
The defence counsel on the other hand, maintained that a copy of the intelligence report referred to by the witness “must first” be made available to the defence before the continuation of his evidence.
Harping on his position, he cited Sections 36 (6) of the 1999 Constitution, insisting that the report should be produced.
Other defence counsel also agreed with Lana’s submissions.
In a short ruling, Justice Hassan adjourned the case until March 9 for continuation of trial and ordered the prosecution to supply the defence with all necessary documents.
He urged the defence to avail the prosecution a list of the documents so sought. (NAN)
(Edited by Abdullahi Mohammed/Dele Akinsola)
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