A Lagos High Court on Tuesday ordered a socialite, Fred Ajudua, charged with defrauding a former Chief of Army Staff, Ishaya Bamaiyi, of $8.4 million, to undergo a COVID-19 test at the laboratory of the Yaba Infectious Diseases Centre, Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the judge, Josephine Oyefeso, gave the order following Mr Ajudua’s failure to appear in court for his trial three consecutive times.
The defendant had cited the contraction of Coronavirus.
In a ruling, Mrs Oyefeso said that in order to verify Mr Ajudua’s claim, he must be tested in the presence of the representatives of both prosecution and defence.
She added that the result must be communicated to the court within 48 hours.
Earlier, defence counsel, Akinwale Kola-Taiwo representing the Law Chambers of Olalekan Ojo (SAN), told the court that though Mr Ajudua was in the court premises, he should not be mandated to enter the courtroom because he tested positive for COVID-19.
Mr Kola-Taiwo told the court that the medical report of the defendant showed that he contracted the deadly virus for the first time on January 8 and tested negative on January 15 after he had undergone self-medication.
He said: “I am sincerely sorry for the absence of the defendant. He is downstairs but I don’t think he should be made to enter the court.
“An associate of the defendant met me and handed over these documents to me. They are medical reports of the defendant testing positive for COVID-19 virus.
“The defendant has an underlying health issue. He has been living with one kidney for a couple of years now.
“Around October 14, while he was in his home town in Delta State, he also contracted COVID-19. The defendant has been medicating ever since but his condition is deteriorating.
Mr Kola-Taiwo said Mr Ajudua tested positive again for COVID-19 in December.
He asked the court to adjourn the trial to enable Mr Ajudua to seek treatment.
Responding, lead prosecution counsel, Seidu Atteh, queried the absence of Mr Ojo, the lead defence counsel.
He said Mr Ojo should not have been absent at the proceedings because the prosecution and defence agreed on the trial date.
He urged the court to order that the defence should make available to the prosecution, all Mr Ajudua’s medical records so that an investigation would be conducted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on the authenticity of the documents.
Mr Atteh said in the alternative, the court should invoke Section 235 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State, 2014, stating that a defendant could be tried in absentia.
“The court should invoke Section 235 of ACJL, 2014, because the defendant cannot continue to manipulate the court,” he said.
The judge consequently ordered the defence to file an application to the court, attaching all Mr Ajudua’s medical reports.
The judge also directed the prosecution to bring the issue of invoking Section 235 of ACJL, 2014 before the court as an application.
She adjourned the case until February 15 for the continuation of trial.
NAN reports that for more than two years, Mr Bamaiyi has been under cross-examination by the defence after giving his evidence-in-chief on November 26, 2018.
According to the EFCC, Mr Ajudua was incarcerated at the Kirikiri Maximum Prisons for alleged fraud, while Mr Bamaiyi was incarcerated over alleged involvement in the attempted murder of Alex Ibru, the publisher of the Guardian newspaper.
Mr Ajudua had, alongside some others, allegedly approached Mr Bamaiyi in the prison in 2004 and convinced the army general that he could hire the legal services of Afe Babalola (SAN) to help to secure his freedom from Kirikiri.
Mr Ajudua allegedly fraudulently received $8.4 million from Mr Bamaiyi as legal fees for the services of the SAN.
When the alleged fraud came to light, the law chambers of Afe Babalola and Co. issued a disclaimer, disassociating itself from the case. (NAN)
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