Akingbola’s lawyer accuses judge of bias

Felix Fagbohungbe, lawyer of the former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank, Erastus Akingbola on Tuesday accused the Judge hearing the former bank boss’s corruption case, Justice Habbeb Abiru of bias.

Mr Fagbohungbe had protested when the Justice Abiru overruled his request for an adjournment till Wednesday to enable him conduct some investigation to be in a better position to continue to leading Mr Akingbola’s co-accused, Bayo Dada, who is in the witness box, in evidence.
The request was turned down by the judge, who ordered Mr Fagbohungbe to continue with the proceedings, the development got the lawyer angry and in the process he accused the court of only interested in hearing the case of the defence.

However, Justice Abiru, who had earlier in the proceedings expressed dissatisfaction over the manner in which the defence have been conducting their case, said Mr Fagbohungbe’s request for an adjournment was unnecessary.

“Since morning you have been with the witness and you spent five minutes on each question. You delayed the progress of the court and now you are seeking for adjournment, in respect of investigation. No there is no adjournment,” the judge said.

“Since the last adjourned date in July, you should have done whatever investigation you wanted to do. You had July, August and even September before yesterday’s sitting. You should continue with your question, there is still time,” he added.

Mr Akingbola’s lawyer however said, “My Lord, it is like you are angry with me. It is like you want to be hearing one side of this case. I’m not asking for too much. I was only asking for tomorrow. After all, you granted my learned friend (counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) when he requested for an adjournment yesterday (Monday) till today (Tuesday).”

Reacting to the accusation of been biased, the judge said “I’m not being biased. You have been given enough time to do your investigation before court resume. I’m friendly with everybody.”

Earlier, Mr Fagbohungbe had also while leading Mr Dada in evidence complained that the judge was not writing down some of the testimonies.

But the judge, in his response said he did not have to record everything the witness said.

“I don’t have to record everything. I am recording the important things he said. There is recording machine; there is verbatim recorder. If you want a comprehensive record of proceedings you can apply for anyone of them.”

Mr Dada, who was being led in evidence by Mr Fagbohhungbe, was accused by the EFCC along with Mr Akingbola of stealing about N47.1 billion belonging to Intercontinental Bank (now Access bank).

He was the General Manager of Tropics Finance Limited, a company in which Mr Akingbola and his wife, Anthonia had interest.

Tropics Finance Limited and its subsidiaries, the EFCC alleged were part of the firms used as vehicles for stealing the money from the bank.

In his testimony, Mr Dada told the court that the transactions of shares purchasing, which a subsidiary of Tropics Finance, Tropics Securities Limited, carried out on behalf of the bank had the approval of the bank’s management.

He also said Tropics Securities obtained separate credit facilities of N12 billion from Access Bank Plc, N2 billion from Intercontinental Capital Market Limited; N320 million from Intercontinental Homes and Savings Limited and between N100 million to N150 million from Associated Discount House, to fund the deal.

The transactions, which form part of the charge instituted against the accused, were said to involve the purchase of the bank’s share for the customers of the bank.

Justice Abiru adjourned the trial till Wednesday for continuation of cross-examination upon the request of the EFCC counsel, Emmanuel Ukala.