16th February, 2011
Justice Adeniyi Adekayode today, for the umpteenth time, bent backwards for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, as he adjourned further hearings on the trial of Joe Musa, the embattled former Director General of the National Gallery of Arts, NGA, and other former management staff standing trial alongside Musa.
Sir Steve Odiase, counsel to the anti graft agency, during the proceedings, told the court that his outstanding witnesses, Mr. Chukwu and an Investigative Police Officer; ASP Galadima, were not in court as expected. He told the court that Mr. Chukwu, after holding pre trial conference with him later informed him that he could not make it to court because his pastors had advised him not to come on spiritual grounds. He also told the court that Galadima had been appointed as Personal Assistant to a DIG by the Police authority and that he is involved in an important assignment where the DIG is involved and as such cannot attend the court to give witness in the case.
Odiase urged the court not to give effect to its earlier threat to foreclose the prosecution from calling further witnesses in the case. He informed the court that the anti crime agency has not exhausted all statutory measures to compel the witnesses from coming to court to give evidence in the case. He prayed the court to issue witness summons against the witnesses whom he said had authored statements to the EFCC which the anti graft agency had included in the proof of evidence in the case.
Joe Musa and the other accused persons opposed the request for witness summons to compel the appearance of the witnesses who had been coming to court voluntarily until July 2010 when they both started avoiding court.
They contended that the reason being adduced by one of the witnesses; Mr. Chukwu, for his absence is not cogent before the law as the court was not told when the spiritual reasons barring him from court, will end.
They contend that the matter had been adjourned for a record 7 times at the instance of the EFCC for the purpose of bringing the outstanding witnesses to court to no avail and urged the court to note that they had been out of job since 2009 when they were alleged to have stolen billions of Naira and are having difficulties taking care of their respective families
The accused persons pleaded with the court to give effect to its earlier ruling to foreclose the prosecution from calling any other witness and close their case for them to commence their defence. They urged the court not to surrender its powers to give justice to them to spiritualists who dictate whether a witness can come to court or not.
Justice Adeniyi slammed the anti graft agency for the undue delay which the case had suffered and unequivocally stated that if the witnesses fail to appear on the next adjourned date, that he will foreclose the EFCC from calling further witnesses. He subsequently adjourned to 28th February for further hearing.
By Nnamdi Felix / Abuja