Tuesday, May 10, 2016 12:17 pm
*Paul Enokoro becomes third SAN to grill Michael Wetkas
*Rotimi Jacob protests ploy may prolong trial
The trial of Senate President Bukola Saraki on a 16 count charge of false assets declaration resumed at the Code of Conduct Tribunal on Tuesday morning with controversies over how many of the over 90 lawyers representing the defendant can speak for him and cross examine Micheal
Wetkas, the first prosecution witness.
Rotimi Jacobs, SAN the lead prosecution lawyer had objected immediately Kanu Agabi, (SAN) the lead defence counsel, told the court that Paul Erokoro, SAN, another member of the team will continue the cross examination of the witness.
The prosecution counsel who had earlier expressed the hope that the defence will end the cross examination of the witness which has been on for about four days argued that though the defendant may have many lawyers, only one counsel is entitled to speak for his at a time.
He further told the Mr. Danladi Umar, the Chairman of the Tribunal that he should not give opportunity for the defendant to uses many “voices” in the cross examination.
“My submission is that a party is only entitled to one audience in one proceedings. A counsel who starts a cross examination should conclude it. The fact that the defendant has four SANS does not mean each of them should do it. Not that one when person is tired another person will take over. It (the cross examination) will be endless.
But Erokoro opposed him arguing that there is no law that limits the number of counsels that a party can use in a case. He argued that it is for the very reason that a counsel may get tired that the law allows a party to a case to have many counsels.
Erokoro who described the request by the prosecution that the defence should end its cross examination of the first prosecution witness today as absurd said they will not allow themselves to be rushed.
“We are going to take our time and do the case properly. We will not be rushed, we will not be stampeded. If the prosecution doesn’t t like it, he should withdraw some of the exhibits. We are going to take the court through all the exhibits,” said Erokoro.
In reply, Jacobs said his point is that the defendants cannot have several voices at the same time, over the same case and the same witnesses.
“For cross examination of witness, he is entitled to one counsel to examine the witness, not to list several and say they should be taking it one by one. The defendant right to a counsel is guaranteed by the Constitution. He can have several counsels, but not all of them will speak at the same time. That’s why we have lead counsels. They can have several lawyers, that’s why they have 90, but only one voice. So, the lead counsel who has started the cross examination is bound to conduct his case.
“The reason why I am raising it is that we have already spent 5 days. The court is entitled to regulate its procedure. You are only entitled to a voice to cross examine a witness. Not four voices,” he added while noting that Erokoro will be the third defence counsel that will be taking part in the cross examination if he was allowed.
When Mr. Umar asked Paul Usoro, another SAN, who was doing the cross examination why he cannot continue, the Senior Advocate of Nigeria said the lead counsel can decide who should do the cross examination.
He added that the defence team is not saying they will all speak at the same time.
In his short ruling, Mr Umar said the defence team has the discretion to conduct the defence in a way it deems fit. He also added that the tribunal is bound to give every opportunity to the accused to defend himself and the court cannot stop him.