A Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja before Justice Habeeb Abiru has closed a case of theft of N47.6billion instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, against a former managing director of former Intercontinental Bank plc now Access Bank plc, Erasmus Akingbola and his associate, Bayo Dada.
Justice Abiru closed the case on Monday, 22 October, 2012 at the resumed hearing of the trial when the defense team led by Felix Fagbohungbe, SAN, failed to present a witness to testify to some documents brought before the court via a subpoena from Rockson Engineering Limited. The court had already granted three different adjournments to the defense in order to produce the supposed witness without any success.
At the last sitting on October 10, 2012, Fagbohungbe informed the court his team could not produce the witness as all efforts to reach the witness proved abortive. He sought the leave of the court for an adjournment saying if they failed to bring the witness at the given date, the defense team will close its case and the court adjourned based on the assurance.
However, at the resumed hearing of the trial on Monday, Fagbohungbe told the court that the witness he promised to produce was still not available. He demanded for more time from the court to enable him present the witness. He said the only witness he was able to contact was ill.
Responding, counsel to the EFCC, Godwin Obla, said the court should take a decisive action on the case. He said the defense has over flogged the matter as the court had given three adjournments in the past on that particular matter. "My Lord, it is over flogged. No matter the circumstance, it was said by the defense from the last adjourned date that the case will be closed if they could not find the witness. This witness is at large. A witness with no name, if he has a name it has not been provided before the court. If he is sick, a medical certificate should be placed before the court.
"Having rescinded three times due to the fact that the defense could not produce the witness as agreed, my Lord, I will not be wrong to say that this is a serial attempt to delay this proceeding. The court has granted the defense the opportunity to present its case on various occasions and it had failed to do so. The state is entitled to proceed. I humbly submit that this application has no merit based on the clear fact of this case. I urge your Lordship to ask the defendant to close his case." Obla submitted
Fagbohungbe, in a rather slow response, said the defense at no time showed to the court that they were unable to go on with the case. "My Lord we have done our work diligently and when we have any constraint, we always explains ourselves to the court."
Justice Abiru told the defense counsel that, going by his pronouncement at the last adjourned date that if a witness was not presented when the trial resumed, the case will be closed. He said if they could not produce the witness, he will not grant any adjournment. "You said at the last sitting that if a witness refused to show up today, you will close the case. I am not granting any adjournment, if you don't have any witness, I will close the case. What is the name of the witness? What is he coming to say?", the judge asked.
Fagbohungbe, in his explanation, said that, his witness could not show up in court because he was scared by the name of EFCC. He said he had three witnesses but when they all realized they were coming to testify in a case concerning EFCC, they gave excuses because the EFCC, according to him, trails witnesses. Obla demanded for substantiation of such an allegation against the EFCC but Fagbohungbe could not offer any evidence to back up his claim.
Justice Abiru, in his ruling, said since the defense could not field a witness after several adjourned dates, the case has been closed. "This case is hereby closed by this court based on the fact that the defense has no witness to present in court. Both parties are to file written addresses for adoption". He adjourned the case to15 November, 2012 for adoption of written addresses.
Ag. Head, media and Publicity
October 22, 2012