The trial of a former governor of Oyo State, Senator Rashidi Ladoja, and his former Aide, Chief Waheed Akanbi, before a Lagos Federal High Court, in Lagos was stalled on Tuesday as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) presented a witness that was not listed in the matter.
Ladoja, a one-time Senator of the federal republic of Nigeria, his standing trial before Justice Mohammed Idris led-Court alongside Akanbi, on eight counts charges bordering of money laundering.
The duo were re-arraigned on an 8-count charge of money laundering contrary to Section 17(a) and punishable under Section 14(1) of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2004.
They had, however, pleaded not guilty to the charge, and are on bail conditions earlier granted them by Justice Ramat Mohammed, who had earlier presided over the matter.
At the resumed trial of the former Oyo State Governor, and his aide on Tuesday, the EFCC prosecutor, O. O. N. Olabisi, had called his witness, one Abdulahi Lawal, a police officer attached to the Commission, to give evidence in the matter.
However, lawyer to ladoja, Bolaji Onilenla objected to the witness given evidence in the matter.
In urging the court to disqualify the police officer from giving evidence in the matter, Onilenla informed the court that the EFCC had failed in complying with the Section 379 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), which made it mandatory that anyone who is to give evidence in Criminal matter, must have his or her name, summary of his or her statement listed in the proof of evidence, so that the defence would have prepared itself, and that the defendant will not be caught by surprise.
Onilenla urged the court to disqualify the witness from giving evidence, except when the additional proof of evidence is filed and served on the defendant.
Equally, lawyer to Akande, Mr. A. Olumide, aligned himself with the submission of Ladoja’s counsel.
Olumide said: ” we are urging the court to look at the amended charge dated August 20, 2008, we had been given the name of the witnesses to be called, and the name of this witness is not included.
“We do not think that this witness can testify. We therefore object to his being in the witness box”.
In response, the prosecutor, Mr. Olabisi conceded to the objection raised by the defendants’ lawyers, he however stated that the charge was prepared in 2006, before the existence ACJA.
Upon accepting the Commission’s failure to list the name and statement of the witness in the proof of evidence, he urged the court to vacate the Wednesday and Thursday dates, which were scheduled for as the trial date, and pleaded court for another fresh date, to enable the anti-graft agency file additional list of witnesses and their statements.
Consequently, the presiding judge, Justice Idris Mohammed adjourned the matter till March 1, 2017.
Justice Idris, however, urged the prosecution to put its house in order and to fully comply with the Section 379 of ACJA Act.
The commission had earlier in November 2008 arraigned the duo on a 10-count charge over the alleged offence before Justice Ramat Mohammed, who was then serving at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.
In the charge, the EFCC alleged that the duo conspired to convert properties and resources derived from an illegal act, with the intention of concealing their illicit origin.
The anti-graft agency also alleged that Ladoja used N42million out of the proceeds to purchase an Armoured Land Cruiser Jeep, and remitted about £600,000 to one, Bimpe Ladoja in London.
At the last adjourned date on November 21, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had urged the Court to issue a bench warrant against Ladoja for failing to appear in court, to answer a N4.7 million money laundering charges against him.
Reacting to the application for a warrant, counsel to Ladoja, Mr. Bolaji Onilenla had told the court that he was not aware that the business of the day was for the arraignment.
He had argued that this was so, because there was a pending appeal before the Supreme Court.
He informed the court that after the decision of the Court of Appeal, Ladoja had changed his counsel, and then, filed an appeal to the Supreme Court.
He stated that neither the accused nor their counsels were served with any court summons to appear in court.
Onilenla had also challenged the prosecutorial powers of the prosecutor on the grounds that the fiat to prosecute was exclusively given to Fetus Keyamo.
He added that such fiat could not be transferred to any other person in his chambers.
He also disclosed that the Supreme Court had earlier dismissed Ladoja’s appeal pursuant to order 6 rule 3 of the procedure rules, but that the application had been filed to restore the appeal.
He added that to continue with the trial will amount to showing disrespect to the apex court and it would be an infringement on the rights of the accused.
Delivering his ruling on the issue on Friday, the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris, held that he would not make any orders as to arrest since the accused was present in court.
The judge also turned down the request of defence counsel for a stay of proceedings pending the outcome of an appeal challenging the prosecutorial powers of the commission under the money laundering Act.
According to the judge, the request was against the provisions of Section 306 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 which allows speedy hearing of criminal cases.
Similarly, Justice Idris also dismissed the objection of defence counsel, challenging the appearance of the prosecution’s counsel, Olabisi Oluwayemi (from Festus Keyamo’s chambers).
The court thereafter, fixed Dec. 14 for arraignment.
The EFCC had in November 2008 arraigned Ladoja along with his former aide, Chief Waheed Akanbi, before Justice Ramat Mohammed, who was then serving at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.
The anti-graft agency alleged that the two men conspired to convert properties and resources derived from an alleged illegal act, with the intention of concealing their illicit origin.
The anti-graft agency also alleged that Ladoja used N42 million out of the proceeds to purchase an Armoured Land Cruiser Jeep, and remitted about 600,000 pounds to one Bimpe Ladoja in London.
Ladoja and Akanbi had both pleaded not guilty to the charges at the trial court, and had urged the court to quash the charges.
The lower court had refused the prayer to quash the charges.
Dissatisfied, Ladoja had appealed against the decision of the Federal High Court.
But, the Appellate Court in its judgement delivered by Justice Sidi Bage, had disallowed the appeal and ordered the former governor to continue his trial at the lower court.
Bage in his lead judgement which was unanimously adopted by two other justices, had held that the EFCC had statutory powers to prosecute under Money Laundering Prohibition Act 2004.