An Ikeja High Court on Monday ordered a former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank Plc (now Access Bank), Erastus Akingbola, to close his defence in the N47.1 billion theft charge preferred against him.
Justice Habeeb Abiru gave the order following the inability of Akingbola’s defence team, led by Chief Felix Fagbohungbe (SAN), to call more witnesses.
Akingbola was arraigned alongside an associate, Bayo Dada, over the alleged theft of N47.1 billion, property of the bank.
The judge, who gave the order at the resumed trial of the case, also ordered the defence team to file its final address within 14 days.
He also directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to file its own final address within seven days of receiving the defence team’s copy.
While dismissing Fagbohungbe’s plea for an adjournment to enable the defence call more witnesses, Abiru reminded him that he had entered into an undertaking with the court on the issue.
Abiru said:“You said at the last adjourned date that if the witness cannot be produced today (Monday) you will close your case today. You said that from the bar.
“It was on the basis of this that I adjourned the matter to give you the last chance. Who is this witness? What is he coming to say? What is the name of the witness?”
Fagbohungbe, who insisted that the testimony of the witness “is material to the case of the defence”, said the person was not present in court because he was indisposed.
He also accused the EFCC of intimidating the witnesses of the defence, claiming that they were afraid of appearing before the court to testify.
Responding, the EFCC Counsel, Mr Godwin Obla (SAN), said the call for an adjournment by the defence was only a ploy to delay trial.
“If a witness is sick, there should be a medical report and the court should not allow the defendant to deceive it.
“Having regard to the last proceedings, I will not be wrong if I say that this is a serious attempt to delay the proceedings.
“We have granted the defendants the opportunity to present their case on various occasions and they have failed to do so,’’ he told the court.
In a short ruling, the judge said:“The honourable thing is for the defence to close their case in line with their undertaking.
“The case of the defence is hereby closed in line with the undertaking”.
Also the court’s order that the defence should file their final address within 14 days did not go down well with Fagbohungbe.
Fagbohungbe said the court had “imposed’’ 14 days on his team to file the final address, pointing out that it was contrary to the 21 days allowed by law.
“I have more than 800 pages of verbatim recording and 649 pages of exhibits.
“Fourteen days cannot be enough for me to prepare my final address. Imposing 14 days on us to file final address in a trial of one year and seven months will be most unfair for the defence.”
The case was adjourned to Nov. 15 for adoption of final addresses.