The EFCC prosecutor was absent in court.
The trial of the Speaker of the Lagos State House of Assembly was stalled again, Tuesday, due to the absence of the prosecution.
Adeyemi Ikuforiji and his aide, Oyebode Atoyebi, are facing a 54-count charge of money laundering of over N500 million.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, accused the duo of receiving the money from the House of Assembly without passing through a financial institution.
On Tuesday, the absence of Godwin Obla, the EFCC counsel, stalled the speaker’s trial for the fourth time since it was assigned to a new judge, Ibrahim Buba.
Edward Okpe, who stood in for the EFCC lawyer, told the court that Mr. Obla had written to the court, in a letter dated November 13, over his absence.
Even the judge’s prodding that he continue in the absence of the lead prosecutor met a brick wall, as Mr. Okpe argued that it was Mr. Obla who got the fiat from the Attorney General of the Federation to prosecute the matter.
That the reason for the absence of Mr. Obla, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, was that he was delivering a paper at a forum did not go down well with Tunde Akinrimisi, representing Tayo Oyetibo, the defence counsel.
“I confirm that a letter was shown to me this morning in relation to a request for an adjournment,” Mr. Akinrimisi said.
” While I do not belittle the reason for the adjournment which is that he had a paper to deliver, I respectfully crave the indulgence of the court to have it on record also that a counsel who takes up the duty of the prosecutor has a responsibility to the court and to the accused person.
“It is on record that this court has said that it will not tolerate any delay in prosecuting the matter under any guise.
When a counsel takes the responsibility as a prosecutor, that is supposed to be paramount,” he added.
Justice Buba, who had fixed trial days on November 19, 21, and 22, adjourned proceedings till Wednesday.
The trial of the Lagos speaker had been fixed for three days in October, but the absence of the trial judge in all three occasions – due to a judges’ conference – stalled proceedings.
But on Tuesday, the judge frowned at the reason for the absence of the EFCC lawyer after he had reiterated that he would not entertain unnecessary delays during the trial.
While the case was under Okechukwu Okeke, who retired last May, the trial suffered several – and sometimes frivolous – adjournments forcing the judge to adjourn indefinitely.
Justice Okeke said that the EFCC were “deliberately” delaying the trial.
“This case has witnessed an unprecedented delay by the prosecution and tactics set by persons to blackmail this court. In the interest of justice, I’ll transfer the case to another judge.
“Whenever the prosecution is ready to diligently handle their case, hearing notices will be issued,” the judge added.
After the case was re-assigned to a new judge, the EFCC added 36 fresh money laundering charges against the speaker and his aide, bringing the total charges to 56.
Trial was, however, delayed on the first day after the defence counsel complained to the court that they had neither been served the amended charges nor informed of the re-arraignment.
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