Tuesday, March 15, 2016 12:22 am
Justice Okon Abang of the Federal High Court, Abuja has adjourned the trial of a former Chief of Defence Staff, CDS, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh (retd), to Wednesday March 16. And the judge emphatically said the trial must begin on this day.
Badeh, who is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alongside Iyalikam Nigeria Limited on a 10-count charge bordering on money laundering, criminal breach of trust and corruption to the tune of N3.97 billion was on March 10, 2016 granted N2 billion bail.
The decision of the trial judge followed an application filed by Akinshola Olujimi, SAN, seeking for an adjournment.
Olujimi, who told the court that he was taking over from Samuel Zibri, SAN, as the counsel to Badeh, said that he had just been briefed on the matter, adding that “though my client has been granted bail, it is on record that the process for the effectuality of that order has not been completed, and there is need for me to access the defendant for full and proper briefing as he is still in Kuje Prison.”
He also added that the prosecution only on March 11, 2016 served him additional proof of evidence, which “will need to be studied”.
S. T. Ologunorisa, counsel to Iyalikam Nigeria Limited, also told the court that he was served additional proof of evidence “some minutes before court commenced because the prosecution could not locate my office and I could not get a copy from defence counsel to the first defendant”. He urged the court not to commence trial, arguing that “it will be an infringement on the defendant’s constitutional rights”.
Prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacbos, SAN, however, urged the court to dismiss the application for adjournment and continue with the trial on the grounds that the defence counsel has the privilege to go to the prisons for his briefing with the accused person.
“Section 396 (3) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Section 19(2)(b) of the EFCC Act states that all matters before the court shall be conducted with dispatch and given accelerated hearing,” Jacobs argued.
He further told the court that Olujimi was at the point of arraignment a member of the defence team, and so “if the court orders for the case to go on, it cannot amount to infringement of his right to choose a counsel for himself”.
In response to the defence counsels’ claim of late receipt of additional proof of evidence, Jacobs, argued that “the prosecution can at any time file additional proof of evidence before judgement”.
Having listened to the arguments of the counsels, Justice Abang, noted that the application for adjournment on the basis that counsel to the defence had been changed was baseless.
Justice Abang, granted the application for adjournment only on the basis of the newly filed additional proof of evidence, noting that “though justice delayed is justice denied; justice rushed is justice crushed”.
He thereafter, fixed March 16, 2016 for “commencement of trial without fail”.