Adeola Oladele, Ibadan –
It was a hot legal tussle on Tuesday at the Federal High Court, Ibadan division during the on-going trial of some staff of the Central Bank of Nigeria and others over the alleged stealing of N8 billion mutilated currency notes as the Prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) expressed concern over the delay and allegations of bias which some defense counsels made against the trial judge, Justice Ayo Nathaniel Emmanuel, saying the moves were meant to scuttle the trial.
Mr. Jacob expressed the view while speaking with journalists immediately after the sitting.
According to the counsel who is representing the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission at the trial, the open allegation of bias against the judge by defense counsel is worrisome and unbecoming of a legal practitioner who is an officer of the court.
The defense counsel, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, who has already filed a notice of appeal against the earlier ruling on bail applications by his clients, had taken exception to the ruling, saying it had convicted his clients even before the commencement of trial.
Two other counsels to the accused persons also aligned themselves with the position of Ojo, asking the judge to disqualify himself from handling the case.
As the sitting was held, the defendants were docked in three batches. What applied in batch A was also similar to the other two batches.
The accused that were brought into the court room included Kolawole Babalola, Toogun Kayode Phillips, Olaniran Muniru Adeola, Salami Ibrahim and others.
The EFCC counsel also complained to the judge that instead of the court processes to be served on him earlier, the processes were served on him on the day of the sitting, which he said was contrary to what the court told them.
Jacobs further stressed that the defense counsel was playing “antics,” alleging that they intentionally delayed proceeding so as to scuttle the trial and that it was not even in the interest of their clients who would remain in detention.
However, Ojo objected to the use of the word “antics” saying, “my lord, I take exception to the word “antics” used by my learned silk.
“There was no way we could have filed the processes. He served me his own written address in court yesterday(Monday) and I have replied him this morning (Tuesday). It appears that the word “delay” has a different meaning in the dictionary of the prosecution.”
“There is no need for the prosecution to play to the gallery. I want the court to order him to withdraw that word.”
During the sitting, Mr. Awa Kalu (SAN), counsel to the first defendant prayed the court to separate the case of his client, saying he was ready to go on with the trial.
Before adjourning the hearing to October 12, the judge said, “The situation we have found ourselves this morning is very unfortunate and it is neither in the interest of the accused, court nor the counsel.” I will therefore refuse the application of the 1st and 3rd counsel for separate trial for now until the applications before me are disposed of.
The case has, however, been adjourned to October 12, 2015.