The Lagos court said the prosecution has a discretion to call witnesses.
A Lagos Magistrate Court sitting in Ikeja, Friday, turned down a request by a lawyer to invite the head of Household of God Church, Chris Okotie, to testify in an assault suit involving a former keyboardist in the church.
Robert Igbinedion, the defence lawyer, had urged the court to issue witness summons on Mr. Okotie to come and present the church’s CCTV recording on July 10 and 15, 2012- the days Dafiaghor Okiotor, the defendant, was accused of assaulting “the man of God.”
The lawyer also wanted the flamboyant pastor to “testify what he knows about the circumstance of the criminal charge against the accused.”
Mr. Okiotor, 40, is facing a three-count charge, including threatening and preventing Mr. Okotie from preaching as well as conducting himself in a manner capable of breaching public peace.
In her ruling, Oshodi Makanjuola, the magistrate, stated that the court had no business calling witnesses in a case.
“The prosecution has no business calling witnesses if it can prove its case without witnesses,” said Ms. Makanjuola, citing portions of the Evidence Act and the Nigerian Constitution.
“The prosecution has no obligation to call all its witnesses… Unfortunately, I did not know of any law that says the prosecution witness must come and testify.
“This application fails and is hereby dismissed,” Ms. Makanjuola added.
STOP THE PRESS
During an earlier sitting of the court, Kola Dopamu, a counsel holding brief for Mr. Okotie, urged the court to stop journalists from reporting the trial.
On Friday, Mr. Dopamu said that he was “particularly unhappy” with Sahara Reporters, a New York based online newspaper.
“My Lord, the text of the report (of Sahara Reporters) is a review of Your Honour’s work as a magistrate,” said Mr. Dopamu, brandishing a printout of the report.
“The defence lawyer called me on more than five occasions if we can settle this out of court. I asked him to put it in writing. He never did.
“In (Sahara) report, he made an absolute nonsense of the discussions I had with him,” said Mr. Dopamu, asking the court “to protect him.”
The magistrate labelled Mr. Dopamu’s claims as “hearsay.”
“I’m not aware of anything being written by anybody. Whatever happened is between you and the defendant… I do not know what you are talking about and I so hold,” Ms. Makanjuola said.
The prosecution also urged the magistrate to “warn” Mr. Okiotor, about publishing information about the court, to which the defendant replied from the dock that he doesn’t “own a publishing house.”
But the magistrate, however, told Mr. Igbinedion to warn his client to “desist from publishing anything.”
“If at all your client is publishing, to your knowledge or not to your knowledge, he should stop publishing anything. The matter is in court and you are all here to get justice,” Ms. Makanjuola said.
While adjourning to May 30 for continuation of trial, Ms. Makanjuola urged both parties to try to settle out of court.
“I don’t even know why the matter cannot be amicably resolved. But since you have chosen to come to court, you’ll get justice,” she added.
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