A Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mike Ozekhome, has accused the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) of tendering forged document at the resumed trial of former Kogi State governor, Abubakar Audu, who is accused of fraud and embezzlement of over N4 billion of public funds.
Mr. Ozekhome, the lead defence counsel to Mr. Audu, on December 9, 2011, told a Kogi State High Court presided by Justice Saidu Tanko Husseini that a one-page ruling of the Supreme Court of Nigeria presented by EFCC prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, was a possible forgery. His position was it was unheard of that justices of the Supreme Court would rule on a case without counsels to the case being present.
The document in question was the November 16, 2011 ruling by five justices of the apex court, including Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, as certified by Muhammed B. A. Nyako, striking out Mr. Audu’s January 24, 2011 application for stay of proceedings before the Kogi State High Court pending the determination of the substantive suit before the apex court.
“What my learned silk is saying is that I forged a Supreme Court document and present same before your Lordship, my Lord, and then I stand to lose my practice licence,” said Mr. Jacobs while taking exception to the SAN’s accusations. “This is a very grievous allegation which I will urge my Lordship not to take lightly.”
Upon hearing both parties, Justice Husseini, adjourned the case for continuation of hearing by one week till December 22, 2011. He said this was to allow the defence counsel authenticate the Supreme Court ruling.
A brief history
Embattled ex-governor Prince Abubakar Audu was originally arraigned on November 30, 2006 on an 80-count charge of fraud and embezzlement of public funds of over N4 billion while governor of Kogi State between 1999 and 2003.
“That you, Prince Abubakar Audu on or about 6th day of Feb 2001 at Kogi State Judicial Division by false pretence and with intent to fraud obtained from Kogi State Directorate of Rural Development, the sum of N6, 263,000 purporting same to be part payment made to Leo Flinch Nig. Ltd in respect of a contract allegedly awarded by Kogi State Directorate of Rural Development to the said Leo Flinch Nig. Ltd and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 1 (3) of the Advance Fee fraud and other related offences Act 13 of 1995 as amended by Act No 62 of 1999,” one count reads.
By the time Mr. Ozekhome had filed the application for stay of proceedings, on the grounds that appeal is a constitutional right of his client, he had asked the court to adjourn the matter since the case is before the Supreme Court.
In response, EFCC prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, on October 6, 2011, told the court that Mr. Audu’s resort to the appellant court was to delay prosecution of the accused.
“Section 40 of the EFCC Establishment Act clearly states that subject to the provisions of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, an application for stay of proceedings in respect of any criminal matter brought by the Commission before the High Court shall not be entertained until judgment is delivered by the high Court”.