A legal practitioner, Kingsley Ekwem, has declined to testify as a prosecution witness in the trial of a former Abia State Governor, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu and two others over an alleged N3.2billion fraud.
The lawyer instead asked Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Lagos to set aside a witness summons served on him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to testify in the matter.
Arguing an application he filed to challenge the court’s summons, the lawyer said he would not be able to testify in the matter owing to the existing relationship between his chambers and the third defendant in the case, Slok Nigeria Limited).
He also told the court that he is not a compellable witness to testify on issues that could breach the professional communication between his law firm and the third defendant.
The lawyer cited certain provisions of the Evidence Act 2011 as well the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners to buttress his point.
Counsel to the EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) however countered by arguing that the lawyers’ position was not founded on law.
He insisted that the lawyer could only raise objections to the witness summons after he had entered the witness box in obedience to the court’s order.
In his submissions on the issue, Former Governor Kalu’s lawyer, Awa Kalu urged the court to consider the relevant provisions of the Evidence Act in granting the application.
He argued that the EFCC cannot put the lawyer in the witness box because the prosecution witness through which the document was tendered as an exhibit had informed the court that it was obtained through a search warrant.
He, therefore, urged the court not to compel the applicant to testify so as to thwart what he called the EFCC’s ulterior motive of incriminating his client, Dr Orji Kalu.
Other defence lawyers aligned themselves with the submissions of Chief Awa Kalu (SAN).
Justice Mohammed Idris has fixed ruling on the application for February 1.