Trial Of Nigeria's Ex-Governor Stalled Again

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Proceedings at a Federal High Court, Lafia, Nasarawa State, were again stalled on Wednesday, November 30th, 2011, when the presiding judge, Justice David Okorowa failed to sit for the fourth consecutive time in the case instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, against a former governor of Nasarawa State, Alhaji Abdullahi Adamu and 12 others.

Adamu and his co-accused persons are standing trial over a 170 count charge of corruption and financial embezzlement to the tune of N15 billion.

Twelve others being prosecuted alongside Adamu by the EFCC are: Engr. Baba Gbewfi, Alhaji Halilu Bala Usman, Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu, chairman, Sneccu Group of Companies, Ovey Bala Angbaso, John Mamman, Ifeanyi Ezekweli, M. D Ciez Pharmacy Limited, Mr. Chukwuma Okoronkwo, Nosa Idehen, M.D Jonabel Construction Company, Henry N Nick Associates Limited, owned by Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu and others, Niccus Industries Limited, owned by Prince Nicholas Ukachukwu as well as Prince and Princess Limited.

The serial adjournment started on May 24th, 2011when the case was adjourned till July 19th, 2011 without sufficient reason. After a long wait on July 19th, the Judge sent a message that pre-election matters would not allow him to attend to the case.

Again, the case was adjourned till September 28th, 2011. On September 28th, 2011, the judge again failed and no reason was given for his absence. That was when the case was adjourned till November 30th and December 1st , 2011 for continuation of hearing.

Incidentally, all the accused persons were also not in court, as a staff of the court    said he was informed by one of the aides of the former governor, Abdullahi Adamu, twenty-four hours earlier, that the case would not go on.

“While we were preparing for the case yesterday, I got a call from one of the aides to the key accused person that the case will not hold. I am sure that is why they are not in court”, a court staff disclosed. It would be recalled that the EFCC on March 3rd, 2011, filed a 15 paragraph counter- affidavit opposing the application for stay of proceedings filed by the ex-governor.

This was consequent upon the dismissal, on January 19, 2011, of an application brought before it by the ex-governor, seeking for the quashing of the case against him. The judge had ruled that the accused persons have a case to answer.

On March 3rd , 2011, Adamu and four others, through their counsels, Abdullahi Ibrahim,  Dr. M.E. Ediru and Onyechi Ikpeazu, SAN, filed applications for stay of proceeding on the ground that a notice of appeal in respect of the last ruling had been filed at the Court of Appeal.

But in a quick response, the EFCC, through its counsel, Adeniyi Akintola, SAN, filed a 15 paragraph counter- affidavit praying the court to discountenance the application for stay of proceedings saying it was brought to waste the time of the court and to delay the prosecution of charges against the ex-governor.

The affidavit was sworn to by Barrister Christopher Emeka Izima.

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The EFCC further told the court that the criminal charges preferred against the ex-governor and twelve others were heavy and weighty and bordered on stealing and misappropriation of public funds.

“It is submitted most humbly that these are charges that must be dealt with expeditiously and summarily and not ones which should be unnecessarily delayed or prolonged, if indeed we are  serious about dealing with, and discouraging corruption in our system”, Akintola said.

Citing the case of Jolly Tanko Nyame V Federal Republic of Nigeria, the prosecution counsel further argued that the Supreme Court of Nigeria frowns at the usual practice of filing unnecessary   interlocutory applications in criminal matters in order to delay trials.

“A stay of proceedings must not be granted, if it will unnecessarily delay the proceedings”

The EFCC added that the applicants have not shown that the continuation of the proceedings by the court would be unreasonable and urged it not to stay proceedings in this criminal trial.

“The applicant has not even compiled the Record of Appeal. All he wants is a stay and he will thereafter go to sleep,” Akintola noted.

The prosecution further argued that one year after the arraignment of the accused persons, their pleas are yet to be taken.

Adamu and other accused persons were first arraigned at the Federal High Court, Lafia, Nasarawa state, on March 10, 2010 before Justice Ibrahim Buba.

Buba was later transferred to Asaba and replaced with Justice Marcel Awokulehin who declined to hear the case.

The accused persons were later re-arraigned on a fresh 170 count charge on Thursday July 22nd , 2010 before Justice David Okorowa who has now ruled that trial should commence.

The case has been adjourned till January 23 to 27, 2012 for continuation of hearing.