Justice Adebukola Banjoko of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT High Court, Gudu, Abuja, has adjourned till January 18 and 19, 2017 for further proceedings in the trial of a former governor of Plateau State, Joshua Dariye.
Dariye is facing a 23-count charge bordering on money laundering and diversion of funds, to the tune of N1.2billion.
The criminal matter, which had been fixed for December 13, 2016 for continuation of trial, could not proceed, as the defence led by G. S. Pwul, SAN, once again failed to produce two witnesses, who were to testify in the case.
At the last sitting on December 9, 2016 the defence had failed to produce the same witnesses, informing the court that they were not reachable; this made the prosecution led by Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, to express concerns that “unnecessary adjournments may delay conclusion of this matter”.
The defence had also notified the court that it wanted to again cross-examine the first prosecution witness, Musa Sunday, an EFCC operative, who had during his testimony on January 25, 2016 being cross-examined by Pwul.
At the resumed sitting, today, Sunday was in court, but Pwul, was not with his witnesses.
“As at Friday [December 9] the report from the bailiff is that the witnesses have not been served”, Pwul said.
The Justice Banjoko, however, cautioned Pwul not to allow a scenario where he would be seen to be deliberately delaying the trial.
“What I wanted was to take all the witnesses together, and I understand the frustration of the prosecution, and this is not what the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, and judicial policy anticipates, and this is against every directive issued to all judges,” the trial judge held.
Jacobs, however, raised objections to the decision of the defence to again cross-examine the prosecution witness, arguing that “we have already closed our case, and our witness has been cross-examined by the defence, and discharged by the court”.
He argued that: “A party applying to re-examine a prosecution witness, must supply the trial court with facts as to the reason, and what he intends to put to the witness, including the new areas he wants, which the defence has not done.”
At this point, Pwul notified the court that the defence already prepared the motion, but that the counsel with it was not in court.
The trial judge, while urging him to “file the motion and serve the prosecution and let’s see it in black and white”, then hinted that arguments on the matter would only be entertained in January 2017.
Tempers, however, flared, when Jacobs, immediately expressed concerns that Pwul deliberately wanted to drag the case into the new year.
“That is what he wants, and the Supreme Court has already condemned him for delaying this case,” Jacobs said.
His response, however, sparked an immediate reaction from Pwul, which necessitated the trial judge to intervene to calm frayed nerves.
While adjourning to January 18 and 19, with a stern instruction to the defence to serve the prosecution with the motion before the fixed date, the trial judge, noted that “having a speedy trial is not having a speedy acquittal or conviction, but is based on the merit of what you put before the court.”