The absence of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Kanu Agabi, on Wednesday stalled the ongoing trial of the founder of Daar Communications, Raymond Dokpesi, before a Federal High Court in Abuja.
Mr Agabi, who is the lead counsel, is amongst four other senior advocates appearing before the court for the trial.
The owner of Nigeria’s first private radio station is facing trial for the alleged diversion of N2.1 billion received from the office of former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
Mr Dokpesi, who denies the allegations against him, has also accused the federal government of defamation of character.
In the opening of the session on Wednesday, the counsel for the prosecution, Rotimi Jacob, told the court that the defence issued him a letter that the lead counsel is bereaved.
“Today is meant for the defence to open case. I am confronted with a letter that the lead counsel, Kanu Agabi, is bereaved. We have five SANs, including Mike Ozekhome who chose this date.
“They suggest two months adjournment April 24. As much as I sympathise with the lead counsel in the matter, I submit that one of the SANs should be sent to handle this matter.
“I urge the court that he grants this adjournment until tomorrow because any counsel that announced appearance in a matter is fit to handle the case. It is not a law that only the lead counsel will handle a matter,” Mr Jacob added.
The counsel appearing for the defence, Ayo Ogundele, responded to Mr Jacob’s submission.
He said: “Although Wole Olanipekun is the lead counsel, Kanu Agabi has been the one following up this matter personally. It would be unfair to continue with this matter in his absence.
“Even when Mike Ozekhome was here, he was never the lead counsel,” Mr Ogundele added.
“We chose 24, 25 of April because the month of March is filled with election matters. ”
Mr Ogundele pleaded with the court to consider the dates suggested in the letter.
In a short ruling, the presiding judge, John Tsoho, said “It is not in dispute that Kanu Agabi is the one who has consistently led the defence in this matter. Therefore, seriousness has to be accorded to a letter from him.
“It is interesting to note that none of the SANs who have been appearing with him is present in court. I assume that they have gone to sympathise with him. I hold that his application is honoured.
“This case is adjourned to May 9 and 10 for defence,” Mr Tsoho added.