Justice Jude Okeke of a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, in Maitama, on Monday, threatened to strike out the charges preferred against a judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adeniyi Ademola, and others, if the prosecution failed again to present its next witnesses at subsequent court sittings.
The Federal Government is prosecuting Justice Ademola, his wife, Olabowale, and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Joe Agi, on charges bordering on giving and receiving of gratification and alleged illegal possession of firearms found with the judge.
The prosecution led by Mr. Segun Jegede had called five witnesses, but was unable to continue its case by calling its sixth witness as scheduled on Monday.
Jegede had told Justice Okeke that he was unable to proceed because of the absence of his next prosecution witness whom he said had been taken into hiding after escaping an assassination attempt at about 2am on Monday.
“This is not the first time. We now have a situation whereby prosecution witnesses are now systematically threatened,” Jegede said.
He said this shortly after the judge delivered a ruling on Monday, allowing the prosecution to amend its proof of evidence by filing a summary of the evidence to be given by an employee of the Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Mr. Malik Olatunde.
Jegede, was to immediately, after the ruling, call another witness but he sought an adjournment to enable him to comply with the court’s ruling.
He also sought an adjournment to enable him to make an arrangement to bring to court his witness, a former Director, Pension Accounts Office of the Head of Civil Service of the Federation, Dr. Shaibu Teidi, whose life he said was threatened earlier on Monday.
But the defence team, comprising, Dr. Onyechi Ikpeazu (SAN), Chief Robert Clarke (SAN), and Mr. Jeph Njikonye, opposed the application for an adjournment on the basis that it was baseless and that it showed that the prosecution was not ready to go on with the case.
They urged the court to compel the prosecution to call its other proposed witnesses, failing which the charges preferred against the accused persons should be dismissed.
In his ruling, Justice Okeke frowned on the prosecution for allegedly “scuttling” the purpose of adjourning 11 other cases that would have competed with the trial for hearing on Monday to other dates.
“The prosecution made the court to act in vain,” Justice Okeke noted.
He agreed with the defence lawyers to the effect that the prosecution had the opportunity of calling at least four of its other proposed witnesses but failed to.
The judge also observed that despite the fact that the court had granted an accelerated hearing of the case without any objection, the Monday’s sitting made the third time, out of the five times a party to a criminal trial was allowed, that the prosecution would be asking for an adjournment. Continue Reading