The scheduled re-arraignment of Joseph Nwobike was stalled on Monday because of the failure of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to comply with a court ruling about the proceedings.
Counsel for Mr. Nwobike, Omotola Akanni, accused the prosecution, represented by Rotimi Oyedepo, of flagrantly disobeying the ruling of the court.
He said even though he had been served with the amended charge, the prosecution has failed to comply with the ruling of the court which adjourned the case for counsel to take their written addresses.
“We have been served but I have serious issues to raise. I am constrained to raise issues about the conduct of the prosecution. Trial was concluded and my lord adjourned the case so that counsels could file their written addresses, which we filed since the 29 of August, but the prosecution has not filed their written address.
“They are in flagrant disobedience to your court’s order, my lord. It is the EFCC that will go in the media to say the court and SAN stalled the trial, but we have complied while the EFCC thinks they can chose what order to abide with,” Mr. Akanni said.
“Then they filed an amended charge on the 26th of October which they served us on the 27th. At the last adjourned date, court adjourned for parties to take written addresses and arraignment but the prosecution thinks he can do what he wants."
He then urged the court to either disregard the charges against his client or adjourn the matter until the anti-graft agency abides by the court order.
“They cannot just choose what they want to do. The court is not a department in EFCC. The attitude of prosecution is persecution,” Mr. Nwobike’s lawyer said.
At the beginning of the proceeding, Mr. Oyedepo had informed the court of his readiness to arraign the defendant which the defense counsel kicked against.
However, he argued that since he has waived his right to call new witnesses, it does not matter if he files his written address now or later.
He queried whether his written address would have any effect if after the re-arraignment, the defense counsel decided to call more witnesses.
Mr. Oyedepo added that the law permits him to amend a charge at any point during the course of the trial.
However, he apologized to the court and the senior lawyer on the defense for defaulting on filing his written address.
"I cannot disobey the court’s order. It is not in my habit. I am not blowing my trumpet; the records are there to bear me witness. My wife had an accident. I explained this to the SAN. I also apologize to the defense counsel,” Mr. Oyedepo said.
The presiding judge, Justice Raliatu Adebiyi, subsequently adjourned the matter to January 22.