An Abuja High Court has criticised the prosecutor for the manner in which it is handling the case of Justice Adeniyi Ademola of the Federal High Court and two others.
The caution follows the resumed trial of Justice Ademola, his wife and a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Joe Agi, after two weeks of adjournment with the prosecution alleging that his witnesses were being harassed and that this might affect the case.
Justice Jude Okeke noted that the prosecutor, Mr Segun Jegede, needed to be serious with the way he was handling the case.
He also warned that if the prosecution failed to produce its witnesses at the next adjourned date, the court would be forced to do the needful.
Mr Jegede had told the court that one of his witnesses allegedly escaped an assassination attempt the night before and that the said witness said someone had called him to broker a meeting with the defendants.
He consequently asked the court to order an investigation and provide protection for his witnesses.
Opposing the submission, Counsel to Justice Ademola, Mr Oyeachi Ikpeazu, stated that the tales being told were aimed at instigating media trial which could prejudice the trial.
He explained that if any crime was perceived to have been committed, the right thing was to approach the security agencies to launch an investigation and file charges if anyone was found culpable rather than trying to whip public sentiments.
In a short ruling on Monday, Justice Okeke said that the prosecution had complained that his witnesses were being threatened, but did not say who was threatening them.
He said that since the case was in the purview of the Nigeria Police Force, the court would not interfere with its investigation.
The judge, however, ordered the Inspector General of Police to provide security and protection for all the parties and witnesses in the case, including the defence and prosecution to prevent interference with the smooth hearing of the case.
After the ruling, the prosecutor applied for an adjournment of the case till Wednesday to enable him prepare his witnesses.
Mr Ikpeazu and Mrs Ademola’s lawyer, Robert Clark, however, opposed the application.
Lawyers to the three defendants submitted that the prosecution should apply to withdraw the charge if it has no witnesses to prove his case.
They informed the court that the prosecution listed 14 witnesses out of which it has only called six.
The lawyers added that going by the allegation made by the prosecutor, only one of the witnesses was being threatened and as such, he should go ahead and present his other witnesses.
They stated that the delay in the trial was affecting the dispensation of the duty of Justice Ademola who is a serving judge and his wife who is the current Head of Service in Lagos State.
In his response, Justice Okeke agreed with the defence that “the application for adjournment is uncalled for, unreasonable and does not fall in line with the attitude of the present government or the administration of Criminal Justice Act”.
He, however, granted the adjournment for 24 hours instead of the two days as requested by the defence.
The court had earlier ruled that even though the prosecution did not provide a summary of what its witness from a commercial bank would say in regards to the financial statements of the defendants, the court would order the prosecution to attach the necessary documents required for the said witness to testify in the interest of justice.