ABUJA, Nigeria – A Federal High Court in Abuja adjourned until Wednesday to rule in an application by the EFCC to allow a principal witness to testify via video link in the alleged N40 billion fraud case against former Governor of Adamawa, Murtala Nyako and others.
Justice Okon Abang adjourned to rule in an application by EFCC seeking the court’s permission to allow its witness, one Mr Kobis, who is abroad, to give evidence via video link.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the EFCC had arraigned the former governor and his son, Sen. Abdulaziz Nyako, along with others, over the allegation N40 billion fraud.
They were arraigned on a 37-count charge bordering on money laundering allegedly perpetrated while Nyako was Adamawa governor.
Others who were arraigned along with them were Zulkifik Abba and Abubakar Aliyu.
Firms allegedly used to perpetrate the fraud which were joined as the 5th to the 9th defendants were Blue Opal Ltd, Pagoda Fortunes Ltd, Tower Assets Management Ltd and Crust Energy Ltd.
The defendants were present in court.
Delivering his ruling after taking the arguments of counsel representing the parties, Justice Abang said the application by Counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Jacob, SAN, for Kobis “to give evidence via video link is a novel issue.”
“I intend to carefully conserve the statutory provisions cited by learned counsel representing the parties before the court takes a decision on the issue
“Learned senior counsel representing the parties canvassed extensive arguments on the issue.
“It would not be convenient for me to conserve the arguments of counsel in the open court and deliver a bench ruling today having regards to the number of cases slated for hearing before the court today.
“In the light of this, this matter is hereby adjourned to October 30, 2019 for ruling on the prosecution application and also for continuation of trial subject to the availability of judicial time,” he said.
According to him, if it is ready, I will deliver the ruling tomorrow (Wednesday) and if it is not, I will take it for another date.
Jacob, who said Kobis was in the UK, had told the court that all efforts made by the anti-graft agency to get the witness to testify before the court failed.
He said the reasons given by the witness for not being able to appear in court bordered on health grounds and the security of his life.
He told the judge that based on the fears expressed by Kobis for his life, Section 232(5) of ACJA also criminalised any action of the prosecution for failure to apply for the protection of a witness.
On his part, Counsel to the 4th and 9th defendants, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, described the reasons proferred by the anti-graft counsel for the application as “just a hearsay.”
“Nothing suggests that he fears for his life in the communication had with the witness between Oct. 22 and Oct. 26.
“The prosecution has not demonstrated seriousness in procuring the attendance of the witness to testify before the court,” he said.
Maikyau argued that it would be unfair to continue to wait for the witness when none of the defendants in the case had absented himself from the beginning of the matter.
Also, Counsel to the 5th defendant, Olumide Olujinmi, adopted the argument of his learned colleague.
He expressed concern that the prosecution counsel had one time told the court that the witness had run away, and again, that he was in London and fears for his life.
“The same witness sent a doctor’s report to the court and after all these, the counsel applied for evidence to be taken via video link by virtue of Article 232 (3) of the ACJA.
“My Lord, this trial started 2015. Are they saying four years is not enough to get the witness to court?
“This is the opportunity for My Lord to balance the case. I urge you to refuse the application for adjournment and the video link evidence.
“Let them call another witness and if they fails, My Lord should order the prosecution to close their case,” he said.
Other defendants’ counsel also argued in the same vein.
Responding, the EFCC counsel told the court that the conversation of the witness’ surety between Oct. 22 to 26 confirmed that the agency made frantic effort to ensure that the witness came to the country to testify.
“Instead of my learned friend to condemn us, he should commend us for our openness.
“I just want justice to be done on the merit, and not merely on technicalities of the matter,” the lawyer argued.