Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa of the Federal High Court, Abuja has threatened to close the case of the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related offences Commission (ICPC) against the director-general of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Modibbo and three others for lack of diligent prosecution.
The threat was sequel to an oral application made by Alex Izinyon SAN, counsel to the 2nd and 3rd defendants (Dipo Onifade and Lucky Omoluwa) and supported by counsel representing the 1st and 4th defendants.
The defence counsel had expressed dissatisfaction over the way and manner the prosecution counsel was conducting the trial in piece meal.
At the last adjourned date, on Monday, May 27, the ICPC lawyer Henry Emore, had called only two witnesses, and assured Justice Giwa that he would bring all his remaining witnesses to court on Monday, June 3.
Based on Emore’s assurance, the court directed him to bring all his witnesses to court on Monday June 3, instead of bringing them one per sitting.
However, at Monday's proceeding, after calling the 6th witness, the prosecution counsel told the court that he could not continue the trial due to absence of two other witnesses.
The ICPC lawyer told the court that one of his witnesses travelled to Saudi Arabia for lesser Hajj, while the other was bereaved.
Miffed by the prosecution counsel's call for an adjournment, Alex Izinyon SAN, counsel to the 2nd and 3rd defendants made an oral application asking the court to close the case of the prosecution.
“We have tolerated the prosecution, if the prosecution is not prepared to proceed with this trial, my Lord, please close their case. They should put their house in order and stop wasting the time of the court.
“Today, they just served on the defence, additional proof of evidence in court.
“The court fixed today for this trial but after calling one witness, the prosecution counsel is requesting an adjournment and thereby wasting the court's precious time,” Izinyon said.
Counsel to the 4th defendant (Pinnacle Communications Ltd) Ama Etuwewe, associated himself with Izinyon's application.
“We left out everything today just to come to court to do this case, only for the prosecution counsel to call one witness and move for an adjournment,” he noted.
Similarly, counsel to the 1st defendant (Modibbo Kawu) asked the court to close the case of the prosecution.
Addressing the prosecution counsel, the judge said: “You heard the applications and complaints of the defence counsel and I agree with them.
“I think it is in your own interest to put your house in order. I adjourned this case till today for you to bring all your witnesses, so that we can make progress.
“I could have fixed other cases today but the whole day is now wasted. I will not close your case but you must bring all your witnesses in court on the next adjourned date or I will close your case.”
Meanwhile, a coalition of civil society organizations has accused the ICPC of incompetence, engaging in media trial and cheap blackmail.
The groups are Competent Government for Accountability led by Comrade Omoba Micheal, South South Youth Mission and Beyond Boundaries Legacy Leadership Initiative led by Comrade Omaga E. Daniel.
According to the CSOs, the ICPC has been carrying out the act in a bid “to extort money from businessmen.”
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