By Alex Enumah
The trial of former Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice, Mr Bello Adoke SAN, at the Federal High Court, Abuja, was on Tuesday stalled due to the failure of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to give names and particulars of witnesses in the proof of evidence as required by law.
Adoke alongside an oil magnet, Alhaji Aliyu Abubakar are standing trial on a 14-count amended criminal charge bordering on money laundering.
They however pleaded not guilty to the charges.
After their arraignment last week, trial judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo, had adjourned till Tuesday August 11 for commencement of trial.
But the trial was however stalled as the anti-graft agency was observed to have breached section 379(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, when it failed to supply the identities and summary of its witnesses it intend to call to the defendants.
Trial had started with the prosecution led by 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 kick start the trial.
However, Chief Olalekan Ojo, SAN, lawyer to the second defendant, vehemently objected to the witness on the grounds that he was unknown to his client as a witness of the EFCC in the trial.
The senior lawyer drew the attention of the court to the charge and proof of evidence, adding that in breach of the enabling law, the prosecution did not list any of its witnesses and also failed to attach summary of the witnesses statements as required by law.
Ojo cited section 379 of the ACJA in his argument, adding that in line with provision of the section, the 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 the 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 can commence.
Responding, Sanga, who informed the court that he got to know about the witness only Monday evening, conceded to the argument and prayed the court for a short adjournment to comply with the law.
The other defendant however did not object to the request for a short adjournment following which trial judge in a short ruling adjourned trial to August 13, 2020.
Justice Ekwo in adjourning the trial ordered the prosecution to serve the defendants with all the particulars, processes that they are entitled to within 24 hours.
In the amended charge, Adoke was accused of collecting the sum of N300 million from Alhaji Abubakar as alleged proceeds of unlawful activities in 2013 while in the same year, he was said to have collected another sum of $2.2 million from one Rislanudeen Muhammed.
He was also accused of disguising a sum of N300 million being proceeds of unlawful activities he accepted from the second defendant.
On the other hand, the second defendant, Alhaji Abubakar, was said to have in September 2013 received cash payment of $2 million and another $4 million from one Abdulkareem Mustapha while in September and October same year he was alleged to have collected another sum of $84.7 thousand.
In another charge, the second defendant was accused of receiving $3 million and concealing the source of same.