The defence counsel to Okey Nwosu, a former Managing Director of the defunct FinBank Plc, who is standing trial for alleged N10.9 billion fraud, on Tuesday urged an Ikeja High Court to subpoena witnesses to testify in the case.
Mr. Nwosu and three former directors of the bank — Dayo Famoroti, Danjuma Ocholi and Agnes Ebubedike — are facing a 26-count charge bordering on stealing of N10.9 billion preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
The defendants were scheduled to open their case during Tuesday’s proceedings after a three-and-a-half year legal battle up to the Supreme Court challenging the jurisdiction of the High Court to hear the case.
The Apex Court had in a judgment on July 17, 2016 ordered Mr. Nwosu and his co-defendants to go back to the High Court to face trial.
The apex court had allowed the appeal filed by the Federal Government and set aside the perverse judgment of the Lagos Court of Appeal.
The Court of Appeal had in its judgment on November 21, 2013, held that the Lagos High Court lacked jurisdiction to try the case and freed the defendants.
But in his submission before Justice Lateefa Okunnu at Tuesday’s proceedings, N.K. Oragbwu, the defence counsel, said the defence was facing challenges getting witnesses to testify in the trial as well as accessing relevant documents.
“The challenges we are currently facing, My Lord, is that we need a subpoena from the court to bring witnesses to court as well as to produce the documents needed for our defence.
“Ever since the removal of the defendants from the bank, they have no access to bank documents and as a result, a subpoena will be required to obtain those documents.
“We request an adjournment to properly prepare our defence before this court; this is not to cause delay as we currently have one witness here today before the court,” the lawyer said.
The Counsel to the EFCC, Adebisi Adeniyi, however, objected to Mr. Oragbwu’s request for an adjournment, saying “it is a delay tactics” to stall the trial.
“We are of the view that this application for adjournment is designed and intended to further frustrate the expeditious trial of this case as directed by the Supreme Court.
“We were here last week and the first defendant knew he would be applying for witness summons and he made no sufficient efforts.
“Trial dates have been picked since November 2016. For a defendant interested in pursuing a case diligently that was enough time to apply for witness summons.
“The application is not in good faith, he can start with the witness that we have in court and if there are documents to be tendered to the witness he should apply for documents at that stage,” Adeniyi told the court.
The counsel to one of the ex-directors, Mr. Famoroti, Seyi Sowemimo, also said he had challenges getting the documents that would assist him.
He said:“Ever since the defendants were removed from the bank in 2009, many people who were in the bank are no longer working there.
“It is difficult getting access to board papers. The company secretary who was there at the time is no longer available.
“The assumption that our request for an adjournment is a delay tactics is unfair, the EFCC has access to documents more than the defendants.”
Also Lanre Ogunlesi, counsel to Mr. Ocholi, pleaded with the court for more time to prepare adequately for defence.
“The wheel of justice grinds slowly but surely, the impression that will be given is that the defendants were stampeded into trial and I trust this court that that will not be the case.
“The third defendant (Ocholi) is unwell and you have to force him to appear in court today by telling him that the fear of this court is the beginning of wisdom.”
Justice Okunnu, in her ruling, granted the defendants’ requests for more time.
“Although the defendants had three months to prepare for defence, witness summons and subpoenas are necessary for the trial.
“I will, however, bend over backwards so that justice will be seen to be done.”
The case was adjourned to February 14 to 16, March 29 and 30, April 4 to April 6, and April 10 to April 12.
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