ABUJA, Nigeria– The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, dismissed a plea by a defendant in a suit filed by EFCC against Murtala Nyako, former Adamawa Governor, and others to stop the prosecution from closing its case.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the defendant, Zulkifik Abba, who is the 3rd defendant, had, on Nov. 13, prayed the court to order the anti-graft agency to call three witnesses listed among the prosecution’s prospective witnesses shortly after the commission signified intention to close its case.
The EFCC had called 21 witnesses in the ongoing trial and indicated its plan to close its case on the grounds that the remaining three witnesses, it had planned to call, were no longer available.
However, Counsel to the 3rd defendant, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, objected to the prosecution’s decision to close its case and urged the court to compel it to call the three witnesses on the grounds that they were relevant to his client’s case and for him to cross-examine them.
Ruling on Thursday, Justice Okon Abang held that the request by the defendant has no foundation in law.
Justice Abang said the Evidence Act, the Rules of Court and the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) which applied to criminal trial, did not allow the court to compel the prosecution to call witnesses it could not produce.
The judge noted that the prosecution had, while applying to close its case, said it could not reach the three proposed witnesses, one of whom it said is currently receiving medical treatment in London.
He faulted the 3rd defendant’s claim that his request was hinged on its right to fair hearing, and held that “fair hearing has been complied with in this case, which means that the trial has been conducted in accordance with the law and rules of court.
“The court has adequately complied with the provision of 36(6)(b) of the Constitution. The section did not say a defendant should be provided all facility to conduct its case; it said adequate facility and that has been done.
“The decision by the prosecution not to call the three witnesses was not deliberate. They were not available.
“The request by the 3rd defendant in his application is not provided for under the ACJA.
“If the defence is desirable of calling these three witnesses, it can apply for the statements of the witnesses and also apply for the issuance of witness summons on them,” the judge said.
At the conclusion of his ruling, Justice Abang allowed the prosecution, represented by Oluwaleke Atolagbe to close its case, following which the defendants’ lawyers indicated their intention to make no-case submissions for their clients.
NAN reports that a no-case submission by a defendant implies when an opposing party has no evidence or lacks sufficient legal grounds to make a case for the defendant to rebut.
And if the no-case submission succeeds, the trial is terminated and the defendant freed. But, if it fails, the defendant is ordered to enter a defence.
Justice Abang, later, adjourned till March 6, for parties to adopt their written addresses in relation to the no-case submission.
NAN reports that while Nyako is the 1st defendant, his son, Sen. Abdulaziz Nyako, is the 2nd defendant in the case.
The EFCC had charged the former governor, along with others, with N40 billion fraud.
They were arraigned on a 37-count charge bordering on money laundering allegedly perpetrated while Nyako was Adamawa governor.