The trial of former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN) at the Federal High Court, Abuja could not continue yesterday due to failure of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to supply names and particulars of witnesses.
Adoke, alongside an oil magnate, Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar, is being prosecuted on a 14-count amended criminal charge bordering on laundering of about N4billion.
The trial was stalled as the anti-graft agency was alleged to have breached section 379 (1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015 by failing to supply to the defendants the identities and summary of the statements of the witnesses it intends to call for prosecution.
The EFCC had sought to commence trial with its counsel, Mr. Bala Sanga, calling his first witness, one Mr. Clement Osagie, an official of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), who was on subpoena, to the witness box.
But the counsel to the second defendant, Chief Olalekan Ojo (SAN), objected to the calling of Osagie as witness on the ground that he was unknown to his client as EFCC’s witness in the trial.
Ojo drew the attention of the court to the charge and proof of evidence, adding that it was a breach of the enabling law for the prosecution not to make list of witnesses and summary of their statements available to the defendants as required.
He cited section 379 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act in his argument, noting that in line with the provision of the section, EFCC ought to supply names and particulars of the witnesses to the defendants to enable them prepare their defence adequately.
He insisted that fair trial demands that defendants must know those that will testify against them in a criminal matter.
The senior lawyer, accordingly, urged the court to compel the prosecution to do the needful before the trial could commence.
In his response, Sanga, who informed the court that he got to know about the witness only on Monday evening, conceded to the argument and prayed the court for a short adjournment to comply with the law.
Since the other defendant did not object to the request for a short adjournment, the court adjourned the matter till August 13 for commencement of trial.
Justice Inyang Ekwo, in adjourning the trial, ordered the prosecution to serve the defendants with all the particulars and processes that they are entitled to within 24 hours.
EFCC had on August 4, re-arraigned Adoke and Abubakar on a 14 count amended charge bordering on alleged money laundering and corruption.
They, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges.