There was a mild drama at the Federal High Court II, Jos, on Thursday when the Judge compelled an accused being tried by the court to lead his defence witness, following the absence of his (accused) counsel in court.
The accused, Ibrahim Suleiman, a Jos-based businessman, has been standing trial since 2007 over alleged involvement in hacking into the system of the defunct First Inland Bank plc.
He is being tried by EFCC on a seven-count charge of money laundering, contrary to Money Laundry Prohibition Act of 2004, among others.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that trouble began for the accused when a letter came from his two counsel, Uche Mgbemena and S. Ogunbiyi, explaining their inability to be in court to represent him.
Mr. Mgbemena was bereaved while Mr. Ogunbiyi said he was ill and not fit enough to be in court.
When the case came up before the judge, Ayo Emmanuel, the accused pleaded with the court to adjourn the case following the hiccups created by the absence of his counsel.
However, the judge refused his appeal.
“The last time we sat on October 12, 2017, we all agreed that you will take your subpoenaed defence witness today on resumption, more so that you have exhausted your adjournment privileges.
“As you can see, the prosecution counsel has opposed your application for adjournment.
“So, you have to continue with your case now that the defence witness is here for you to ask him your questions,” Mr. Emmanuel said.
However, Mr. Suleiman, who was unrelenting in his pleas, said: “My Lord, my counsels are not here in court and I am constrained now.
“I can’t continue on my own because I don’t even know what to ask him (Defence witness).’’
“As it is now, I don’t even have the documents such as the bank statements of my account which are with my counsel; supposing I have them, I may try.
“My Lord, I am not a lawyer and I don’t think I can do it,” he pleaded.
The judge then ordered the court clerks to quickly produce the statements of account from the case file and present to the accused.
At this point, Mr. Suleiman studied the documents and engaged his own witness, David Joshua, a Fund Transfer Officer with Sterling Bank Plc, for almost three hours.
When the accused asked the witness whether some of the entries and withdrawals contained in the two statements tagged Exhibits P12 and D10 could be said to be regular, the witness said, “they are not regular’’.
“This kind of transactions are not regular; both statements of accounts are contradicting themselves. In P12, N400.7 million came in on June 29, 2007 but it came in D10 after N165m came in the same day.’’
“Looking at the transactions that took place, nothing like hacking took place; this I can prove,’’ he said.
Mr. Joshua said that what happened was a manipulation done by a bank staff.
“In banking system, a bank statement of a customer can be obtained in any branch of the bank and it will always be the same irrespective of the time.’’
Mr. Joshua explained that the sum contained in the petition letter tagged as Exhibit P1 could not be seen in both P12 and D10.
The prosecution counsel, Cosmas Ugwu, in his cross examination of the witness, asked him whether a banker would deliberately do such transactions in both P12 and D10.
In his response, Mr. Joshua said: “yes; with a different intention, such narrations can be done.’’