Nigeria: Court rejects Belgore’s application for Statements front-loading in N450m Fraud Case
Lagos, May 23, 2018 (AltAfrika)-Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, Nigeria on Wednesday dismissed an application filed by Mohammed Dele Belgore, SAN, seeking the order of the court to direct the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, to front-load his statements, which he claimed were hoarded by the Commission.
Belgore is standing trial alongside a former Minister of National Planning, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, for allegedly receiving the sum of N450m on March 27, 2015 out of the $115,010,000 paid out by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezanni Allison-Madueke, to influence the outcome of the 2015 presidential election.
They were accused of handling the huge sum without going through any financial institution, contrary to the provisions of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act.
At the last adjourned sitting, counsel to the first defendant, Seni M. Adio, SAN, had moved a motion urging the court to order the prosecution to front-load the complete set of his client’s statements to the Commission.
Adio had claimed that the prosecution hoarded some of his client’s statements, adding that “they were not tendered before the court.”
However, prosecution counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, had countered the allegations, saying “My lord, we are not a party to hiding any statement. All the statements made voluntarily by the first defendant have been front-loaded before the court.”
Oyedepo had further argued that the claim by the defence was just an attempt to delay trial, adding that “I have just been served in court and the application is not ripe for hearing.”
After listening to both counsel, the judge had ordered the prosecution to file a formal response to the motion.
At the resumed hearing today, the judge, in his ruling, upheld the argument of the prosecution that the motion seeking the order of the court directing the EFCC to front-load certain documents was an abuse of court process.
The judge held that “The first defendant should not rely on the issue of the prosecution holding his statements.
“He should do more by stating the name of the officer who took the statement, the time it was taken and the content of the statement.
“He has not discharged his evidential duty and shall have another time to state the contents of the statement he claimed was not front-loaded.
“This application lacks in merit and I dismiss same.”
Meanwhile, the second defendant, Sulaiman, had earlier informed the court that he had disengaged his counsel, A.O. Ayanlaja, SAN, and employed the service of another counsel.
He also said that his new counsel was not in court because he had other cases to attend to.
In his response, the prosecution counsel, however, told the court that he was not privy to the information.
“I am yet to receive any application from Mr. Ayanlaja, my Lord.
“By Section 349 (7) & (8) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, notice should have been served on the court and not the parties.
“Mr Ayanlaja is not in court today. Likewise, the new counsel he claimed to engage is not here and no letter has been brought forth either.
“My Lord, this act by the defence is just to stay the proceedings of this case, which should not be.
“The law came to kill this mischief and we are exhuming it again. There is more to this, which the defendant is not saying”, Oyedepo submitted.
Counsel to the first defendant, E.O. Shofunde, in his response, told the court that he was not aware of that provision by the law until Rotimi read it out.
“My Lord, we learn everyday and I can boldly say that this is the first time I am hearing this provision.
“My submission is that, while the prosecution was right in referring to Section 349(8) of the ACJA and the said provision has been breached, I concede to that,” Shofunde said.
He also urged the court to adjourn and direct Ayanlaja, following his client’s disclosure, to file the necessary papers that he has been disengaged and not force him against his will.
“The defendant has the right to change his counsel at any time,” he added.
Consequently, Justice Rilwan adjourned the case to June 25 and 26, 2018 for continuation of trial.