The senior lawyer is accused of money laundering.
The trial of Wale Babalakin, the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited, was stalled again, Wednesday, after he failed to appear in court.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, is accusing Mr. Babalakin and Alex Okoh of laundering N4.7 billion on behalf of James Ibori, the convicted former governor of Delta State.
The trial was transferred from Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo to Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo after the former was moved to the Commercial Division of the High Court.
The defendants were billed for a fresh arraignment before the new judge, one year after they were arraigned before Justice Onigbanjo.
At the last adjourned date, on October 31, the trial was stalled because the new judge said that he had not received the case file from the Chief Judge.
On Wednesday, Mr. Babalakin and his lawyer were the only ones absent in the court.
Only Mr. Okoh stood in the dock.
Rotimi Jacobs, counsel to the EFCC, said that he was disappointed that the first defendant (Mr. Babalakin) was not in court.
“At the last (adjourned) day, the junior counsel in Babalakin’s chambers was in court and we both agreed on this date. I am surprised that today they were not in court on the ground that it was not convenient,” Mr. Jacobs, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said.
“As it is now the matter will have to be adjourned,” he added.
The judge enquired from the EFCC lawyer if the defendants were present at the last court sitting and Mr. Jacobs responded that it was only the first defendant that was absent.
“I called him and he said that he was on his way,” Mr. Jacobs added.
While Mr. Jacobs insisted that Mr. Babalakin had a legal representation during the last sitting when Wednesday’s date was fixed, he also added that he was unsure of the counsel’s name.
Tayo Oyetibo, counsel to Mr. Okoh, urged the court to fixed a fresh date for the re-arraignment of the defendants.
“The counsel said he was from Babalakin’s Chambers… I think it’s safer to say that there were no proceedings that day since records were not taken,” said Mr. Oyetibo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
The judge agreed with Mr. Oyetibo, noting that there was no need to “go into the controversy of someone was here and his name was not taken.”
He adjourned the sitting till December 9.
About 20 minutes into the court hearing, a lawyer representing Mr. Babalakin, stumbled into the court, breathless.
“We got information that the hearing is for today, we were expecting hearing notices to be served,” said Mobolaji Kuti, a junior lawyer, in the first accused’s chambers.
“I’m sure he (Mr. Babalakin) is on his way,” Mr. Kuti added.
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