The scheduled commencement of the trial of a former Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adoke (SAN), was stalled at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday.
Justice Inyang Ekwo had adjourned till Tuesday for trial shortly after Adoke and his co-defendant, Aliyu Abubakar, were re-arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on 14 amended counts of money laundering bordering on the controversial OPL 245 transaction, also known as the Malabu Oil deal.
But the scheduled proceedings were stalled on Tuesday due to the failure of the prosecution to disclose the name of its proposed first witness in the list of witnesses and file the summary of the witness’ statement in the proof of evidence served on the defendants ahead.
Shortly after the proceedings resumed, the prosecuting counsel, Bala Sanga, called an official of the Central Bank of Nigeria, Clement Osagie, as the first prosecution witness.
Immediately, the witness was put on oath, Abubakar’s lawyer, Olalekan Ojo (SAN), objected to Osagie giving evidence.
He said, “We are constrained at this juncture to raise an objection to this witness, Mr Clement Osagie, giving any evidence because of the failure of the prosecution to comply with the mandatory provision of Section 397(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act with the regard to the imperative necessity of the proof of evidence served on the defendant to include the list of witnesses, among other things.”
He added that the failure to include the name of the witness on the list and serve the defence with the summary of his statement was a breach of the right of the defence to fair hearing.
Responding, Sanga said the non-inclusion of the documents requested by the defendants in the proof of evidence served on the prosecution was immaterial.
This, he said was because, the witness was on subpoena and that was indicated in the proof of evidence served ahead on the defendants that an official of the CBN would testify as a prosecution witness.
But the court dismissed the prosecution’s argument, saying the provision of Section 397(1) of the ACJA clearly stipulated that the documents must be provided.
The judge, who frowned on the omission by the prosecution, said he was lucky that the defence opened up at the early stage of the proceedings and did not wait till the end to “pull the carpet.”
“Unfortunately, in criminal proceedings, I am not allowed to penalise, I would have done so,” Justice Ekwo added.
The judge gave the prosecution 24 hours to file and serve all the necessary documents demanded by the prosecution and adjourned till August 13 for the continuation of trial.