The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Tuesday, October 3, 2017 vehemently objected to a motion to stall the ongoing trial of Muhammad Belgore, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, before Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos.

Belgore, a governorship candidate during the 2011 Kwara State gubernatorial election, is standing trial alongside Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, a former Minister for National Planning, for allegedly receiving the sum of N450m on March 27, 2015 out of the $115,010,000 paid into a new generation bank by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke.

At the resumed hearing today, the first defendant, Belgore, through his counsel, Ebun Shofunde, SAN, had sought to move a motion to join Alison-Madueke as a defendant in the suit.

However, the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, objected, urging the court not entertain it.

Oyedepo, who said he was served with the motion by the defence counsel before the proceedings commenced today, argued that it was a ploy to stall the ongoing trial.

The prosecution counsel further argued that only the prosecution and not the defence could decide whether the former Minister would be joined in the suit or not.

“We need not bring her before this court. She was not here when the two defendants were arraigned. She was not here when the trial started. Already, I have presented witnesses, and I am even ready to close my case today…,” he said.

Having listened to both parties, Justice Aikawa ordered the defence to properly serve the prosecution with the motion.

Thereafter, Oyedepo called a prosecution witness, Usman Zakari, who told the court how investigation revealed that Belgore maintained
accounts in both GT Bank Plc and Standard Chartered Bank Plc.

When asked by the prosecution counsel to explain further, Zakari said both banks obliged the Commission’s requests for the opening packages and statements of accounts of the first defendant.

The prosecution counsel tendered in evidence the original letter dated January 19, 2017 written by Standard Chartered Bank Plc to the Deputy Director, Operations, EFCC, as well as the account opening document and statement of account of the first defendant.

Also, the prosecution counsel tendered in evidence the original letter dated January 10, 2017 written by GT Bank Plc to the Deputy Director, Operations, EFCC, as well as the account opening document and statement of account of the first defendant.

The defence counsel did not object to the admissibility of the documents.

The documents were, therefore, admitted as exhibits 8 and 9.

However, when the prosecution counsel sought to tender in evidence another document containing the e-mail trail between the Managing Director of Fidelity Bank and Ugonna Madueke, a son to the former Petroleum Minister, the defence counsel objected to its admissibility.

Counsel to the first defendant, Shofunde, objected to the admissibility of the certificate of identification as well as the attached documents on the grounds that they failed to comply with the Section 84 of the Evidence Act.

He said the verification of the certificate, which is a condition precedent to the admissibility of the attachments, could only be done either by an expert or a witness who is familiar with the use of the computers.

He, therefore, prayed the court to reject both the certificate of identification and its attachments.

Counsel to the second defendant, Tunji Ayanlaja, SAN, also aligned himself with the argument of the counsel to the first defendant.

In his response, Oyedepo urged the court to adjourn the case in order to enable him respond accordingly.

Consequently, Justice Aikawa adjourned to October 4, 2017 for continuation of hearing.

Muhammad Dele Belgore

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