A Lagos State High Court has ruled that fraud suspect, Fred Ajudua, must face the trial he has evaded since 2006. Justice Olubunmi Oyewole issued the order on Monday, May 20, 2013.
Mr. Ajudua, who is a lawyer by training, and Charles Orie were arraigned in 2003 for allegedly defrauding two Dutch businessmen, Remy Cina and Pierre Vijgen, of $1.69 million between July 1999 and September 2000.
In the alleged fraudulent deal, Mr. Ajudua was accused of impersonating the Auditor-General of Nigeria, Isa Audu.
Three years after his 2003 arraignment, Mr. Ajudua was granted bail on medical grounds in March 2006. He had told the court then that he was receiving treatment at Grant Medical Foundation, Pane, India in October 2006. Since then, he has failed to make any court appearance. At every court session since his “medical” bail was approved, Mr. Ajudua had submitted a letter of medical excuse signed by Dr. M.O. Mabayoje of the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH). Besides, his defense counsel, Olalekan Ojo, became notorious for appearing in court to make incessant requests for adjournments. “There is no doubt that Chief Ajudua and his lawyer want to use the tactics of endless adjournments to make sure that the case would fizzle out over time,” said a source close to the prosecutors.
On Monday, however, Justice Oyewole, who is presiding over the case, rejected further requests for adjournment. He fixed June 11, 2013 for resumption of trial.
Mr. Ajudua’s lawyer told the court that his client was undergoing treatment for renal artery stenosis and requested an adjournment till a date in September, 2013, but the judge dismissed the request.
Speaking in an exasperated tone, the judge stated, “The whole thing is about the tragedy of our law enforcement agents. The prosecutors are there helpless. Your client is a legal practitioner, an issue you raised vehemently during the bail application. As a legal practitioner, he has more duties to do than any other defendants.”
Justice Oyewole added that Mr. Ajudua “has a bench warrant on his head; he doesn’t appear in court to face his trial, and you want me to believe a medical report that did not specify his whereabouts and the duration he will spend to receive treatment.” The judge observed that Ajudua’s attitude amounted to an attempt to boycott the administration of justice.
The judge also complained about the content of the medical reports which did not indicate whether Mr. Ajudua was not mentally fit to stand trial. “Dr. Mabayoje has been writing to the court all these years,” said the judge. “And in this letter, he did not state that the defendant is on admission with him. He left the jurisdiction of this court and he re-appeared within the jurisdiction without appearing in court.
Justice Oyewole remarked that the court “is not interested in the property of the surety, but [is] after justice: that the defendant must appear and face his trial.”