The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has informed the court of its intention to amend one of the charges filed against a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Dele Belgore, to accommodate new facts that came up in the course of prosecution.
The EFCC, through its lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, stated this to Justice Mohammed Aikawa, who is presiding over the matter at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos.
This development came after prosecution called two witnesses in the ongoing trial.
Mr. Belgore was charged alongside a former Minister of National Planning, Abubakar Suleiman, on a five-count charge of unlawful enrichment.
The former petroleum minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke, was also named in the charge but was said to be at large.
The anti-graft agency claimed that Mr. Belgore was paid N500 million from the sum of $115 million which Mrs. Alison-Madueke allegedly doled out to compromise the 2015 general elections.
At the resumption of the trial on Monday, November 13, counsel to Mr. Belgore, E. O. Shofunde, commenced a cross examination of the second prosecution witness, Usman Zakari, an investigative officer of the commission.
In a series of questions asked to puncture the testimony earlier given by the operative, Mr. Shofunde asked, “Am I correct to say that the event leading to this charge took place between December 2014 and March 2015?”
The witness responded, “No, it commenced from November 2014 to March 2015.”
Mr. Shofunde then replied, “I put it to you that at no time did the defendant admit to you that he collected the sum of N500 million.”
The witness, however, said that the defendant admitted that he appended his signature on the receipt of the payment.
On whether he confronted the accused with exhibit seven, a list produced by Mr. Belgore on cash disbursement, the witness said he did not.
“I put it to you that the case of the first defendant has always been that he signed exhibit one, which is the receipt of payment,” Mr. Shofunde said, to which the witness answered in the affirmative.
Mr. Shofunde then suggested that if the first defendant had told the EFCC statements that were true the EFCC would have disabused its mind since its purpose was to find things to incriminate Mr. Belgore, to which Mr. Zakari replied in the negative.
At this point, the prosecutor, Mr. Oyedepo, raised an objection to the defense counsel’s questions, citing the provisions of sections 232 of the Evidence Act.
“Section 232 of the Act provides that the statements of a defendant can be used to cross examine him without it being shown to him, but, if its intent is to contradict the defendant, then his attention must be drawn to same,” he said.
Mr. Oyedepo insisted that the statements of the first accused ought to be shown to him.
His submission was, however, opposed by Mr. Shofunde, who argued that the first leg of Section 232 allowed him to first cross examine the witness without showing him the statement.
Justice Aikawa overruled Mr. Oyedepo’s objection and asked the defense counsel to continue with the cross examination.
Mr. Shofunde then said, “I put it to you that the case of the first defendant is that on the evening of March 27, 2015, a stakeholders’ meeting was held in which representatives were selected to proceed the following day and collect the money.”
Meanwhile, during a re-examination by the prosecution, the witness told the court that he had not confronted the accused with exhibit seven, because the accused implored the commission for time to check his records with a promise to return with the required documentation.
It was at this point Mr. Oyedepo informed the court of his intention to close the prosecution’s case after the second witness but added that the prosecution would amend its charges in line with exhibit seven.
Consequently, the court vacated the November 14 earlier date and adjourned the case until November 24 for a continuation of trial.