Synagogue Building Collapse: Church’s Trustees, Engineers Arraigned For Manslaughter

SynagogueThe Trustees of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) were arraigned on Tuesday at the Lagos High Court in Ikeja over the collapse of a building belonging to the church on September 12, 2014, which led to the death of 116 persons.

Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo arraigned the defendants on Tuesday after dismissing the application filed by the second and fifth defendants, seeking to quash the charge and stay of further proceedings pending the determination of the application at the Court of Appeal.

The two engineers who constructed the collapsed building, Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun and their companies, Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company and Jandy Trust Limited were also arraigned alongside the trustees.

The Office of the Attorney General, Lagos State had filed its Information Papers since September, 2015 containing a 111-count charge against the Synagogue Trustees and the two engineers that supervised the construction of the collapsed building and their respective companies before a Lagos State High Court

The Defendants were arraigned for charges bordering on failure to obtain building approval contrary to Section 75 of the Urban and Regional Planning Law of Lagos State 2010, involuntary manslaughter causing death contrary to Section 222 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011.

Since the charges were filed, the defendants had made attempts to stall their arraignment by filing several applications, including the instant applications which was dismissed on Tuesday by the trial Judge.

The lead counsel representing the defendants made several efforts to convince the court not to proceed with the arraignment.

A senior Nigerian lawyer representing SCOAN, Lateef Fagbemi, argued that it would be improper for the court to proceed with the arraignment, since the business of the court on Tuesday was for ruling.

While Mr E. L. Akpofure, representing Hardrock Construction Company, said he would not be able to proceed because he had just lost his mother, Mrs Titilola Akinlawon and Olalekan Ojo, who represented the third and fifth defendants, also aligned themselves with the counsel to the first defendant.

Justice Akapo, however, overruled them and ordered that the charges be read in court to the accused persons, noting that criminal trials were to be heard expeditiously in line with Section Eight of the National Judicial Policy and that there was nothing stopping him from proceeding with the arraignment.

The defendants in the suit are: the Registered Trustees of Synagogue Church of All Nation, Hardrock Construction and Engineering Company, Jadny Trust Limited, Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun

The representative of the first defendant [SCOAN], Mr Niyi Jegede, the fourth and fifth defendants, Oladele Ogundeji and Akinbela Fatiregun were in court and pleaded not guilty to the charges proffered against them while a plea of not guilty was recorded for the second and third defendants being corporate bodies.

The State Prosecution team led by Director, Public Prosecution [DPP] Mrs Idowu Alakija applied for the defendants, who were not corporate bodies, to be reminded in prison custody.

Based on the DPP’s application, the court ordered that the fourth and fifth defendants be remanded in Kirikiri pending trial.

The court adjourned to May 19, 20, 23, June 1, 2 and 3 for continuation of the trial.

Alleged $8.3million Fraud: Appeal Court Reserves Judgments On Ajudua

AjuduaThe Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, has reserved judgments in two separate appeals filed by a business man and one time socialite, Mr Fred Ajudua.

Mr Ajudua is challenging the ruling of Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye of a Lagos High Court in Ikeja which refused his bail application.

Justice Ipaye had refused bail in a suit filed by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, EFCC on allegations of defrauding former Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi (rtd.) of about $8.395 million.

While refusing Ajudua’s bail application, Justice Ipaye had made reference to Ajudua’s antecedents in separate criminal matters before another Lagos State High Court where the defendant not only jumped bail but also allegedly interfered with the court process.

Dissatisfied, Ajudua appealed against the ruling and urged the appellate court to set it aside.

The appeal court reserved judgement following the adoption of brief of arguments by Ajudua’s counsel, Mr. Olalekan Ojo and that of the Economic and Financial Crime Commission, (EFCC), Mr. Saidu Atteh.

Adopting his brief of argument, Ajudua’s lawyer formulated four issues for determination and urged the court to determine whether the lower court was right when it refused to admit the appellant on bail despite his heath condition.

Ojo maintained that the facilities at the Kirikiri Maximum Prison are grossly inadequate and cannot take care of Ajudua’s health.

Besides, he argued that because of the peculiar and complicated nature of Ajudua’s ailment, he requires specialist with hi-tech medical equipment to manage his health effectively.

In his response, lawyer to the EFCC, Saidu Atteh, submitted that the medical needs of Mr Ajudua can be taken care of where he is detained and that should the need arise, the EFCC was prepared to provide medical services for him within the jurisdiction of the court.

Justice Rita Pemu also reserved judgement in a separate appeal filed by Ajudua on the refusal of the lower court to allow him make extra-judicial statement in response to the allegations levelled against him.

On the issue of some extra-judicial statement, Ojo argued that it is the duty of court in all cases particularly in criminal cases and where the liberty of the accused is at stake to ensure that justice is done.

He urged the court to allow his appeal and set aside the ruling of the lower court.

Alleged $8.3million Fraud: Ajudua Files Objection, Stalls Arraignment

Fred AjuduaA fresh move by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to arraign an alleged serial fraudster, Mr Fred Ajudua, before a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja has been stalled.

The arraignment was stalled by a preliminary objection raised by Mr Ajudua’s counsel, Mr. Olalekan Ojo.

The one time Lagos socialite, Ajudua, is facing a fresh 32-count amendment charge before Justice Oluwatoyin Ipaye.

In the charges, Ajudua and a registrar in the Lagos State Judiciary, Rosulu Idowu Oluronke, allegedly conspired along with some others, still at large, to cajole and swindle a former Chief of Army Staff, General Ishaya Bamaiyi of $330,000 (three hundred and thirty thousand dollar) while he was in Kirikiri Maximum Prison.

The alleged funds were collected from General Bamaiyi under the guise of being part payments meant for the legal luminary, Afe Babalola’s professional fees to handle his case and facilitate his release from the prison custody. The offence was said to have been committed between November 2004 and June 2005.

In his preliminary objection, however, counsel to Mr Ajudua, Mr Olalekan Ojo, said that the amended charges would prejudice the decision of a pending appeal before the Lagos Division of the Appeal Court.

In the said appeal, Ajudua is challenging the jurisdiction of the lower court as well as the competency of the charge.

The EFCC has objected to the preliminary objection and the court has adjourned till July 30 to hear arguments for and against the application.

Trial Of Former Nasarawa Governor Stalled

Former governor of the State, Aliyu Akwe Doma
Former governor Aliyu Akwe Doma

The trial of former governor of Nasarawa State, Aliyu Akwe Doma and two others before Justice A. A Okeke of the Federal High Court, Lafia, Nasarawa State was on Monday stalled as the defence sought adjournment pending the determination of its application for the transfer of the case to another judge.

The ex-governor is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, alongside Timothy Anthony Anjide and Dauda Egwe on a 10-count charge bordering on money laundering.

At the resumed hearing of the case on June 2, 2014, the defence counsel, Charles Edosomwan, SAN who was represented by Olalekan Ojo, told the court that, he had a pending application before the Chief Judge requesting for the transfer of the case to another judge to ensure that justice is done to the parties in the case.

This was according to a press statement by Head, Media & Publicity of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren.

The defence, in seeking adjournment of the case, relied on Section 7(a) of the Practice Direction of the Federal High Court which allows any counsel who may wish to make a petition against a judge to inform the chief judge in writing of the allegations against the judge concerned.

He urged the court to give effect to the rules of the practice direction and stand down the case pending the determination of the petition.

Responding, counsel to EFCC, Oluwakemi Pinheiro, SAN, said the application is a calculated attempt to delay and frustrate the case now that the prosecution is at the verge of closing its case.

He stated that, the judge has been fair and impartial in the conduct of the case.

According to him, it is rather the defence that has all along tested beyond limits, “the patience of the learned trial judge by their incessant, unnecessary and, with profound respect, frivolous applications and indulgences sought from the court as well as other dilatory tactics trumped up to deliberately delay and frustrate expeditious trial in this charge”.

Pinheiro who was visibly unhappy with the application urged the court to dismiss it saying, it is frivolous and pre-emptive.

After listening to the argument of counsel, Justice Okeke adjourned the case to June 30, 2014 for mention.

One of the counts in the charge against the accused persons reads:

“That you Aliyu Akwe Doma (former governor of Nasarawa State, Timothy Anthony Anjide and Dauda Egwe between January 2007 and December 2009 in Lafia Nasarawa State within the jurisdiction of this honourable court converted the sum of N5,000,000,000.00 (five billion naira only) property of Nasarawa State Government being proceeds of an illicit act to wit: concealing its illicit origin and thereby committed an offence contrary to section 14(1)(a) of the Money Laundering  (Prohibition) Act 2004 and punishable under section 14(1) of the same Act”.



LAW WEEKLY: Adegboruwa Examines Appeal, Justice System

A legal practitioner, Ebun Adegboruwa gives his perspective on appeal and the justice system in Nigeria as Lagos challenges the acquittal and discharge of former chief security officer of late Gen. Sani Abacha, Maj. Hamza Al-mustapha and Personal Assistant to Late Kudirat ABiola, Lateef Shofolahan.

This edition of law Weekly examines the reactions trailing the move.

Last week Tuesday, the attorney general and commissioner for justice in Lagos, Mr Ade Ipaye declared, during a press briefing on law and order, that after studying the court of appeal judgment, the Lagos state government had filed its appeal.

Now in the early reactions trailing that announcement, the lawyer on the other side, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, says “while we recognise the fact that the Lagos state government has the right to appeal, the appeal cannot affect the freedom of the persons who have been discharged and acquitted by the court of appeal.

“The appeal cannot restore the judgment of the high court. There is nothing like stay of execution here. The judgment of the court of appeal cannot be stayed.”

Mr Adegboruwa, who has led a series of protests against the tolling of the lekki-epe expressway, is now in court challenging the tolling of the new Ikoyi/Lekki link bridge.

Court Sets April 29 To Hear Al-Mustapha’s Death Sentence Appeal

The Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos has fixed April 29 for the hearing of the appeal filed by Hamza Al-Mustapha, former Chief Security Officer to late Sani Abacha; and Lateef Sofolahan, former Personal Assistant to late Kudirat Abiola.

Presenting the appeal on Friday, Al-Mustapha’s lawyer, Mr Olalekan Ojo, in his 112-page written address, said the prosecution’s evidence on the defendant’s conviction was not supported by law.

The appellants contended that the death sentence by the lower court was “unwarranted, unreasonable and a manifest miscarriage of justice.”

Mr. Al-Mustapha’s four grounds and Mr. Shofolahan’s five grounds of appeal faulted the judgment of the lower court in admitting the testimonies of Ore Falomo, as well as the contradictory statements of Barnabas Jabila (a.k.a Sgt. Rogers) and Mohamamed Abdul (a.k.a Katako).

He urged the court to acquit and discharge his clients.

A Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere on  31 January, 2012 convicted Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, the former Chief Security Officer t over the murder of of Kudirat Abiola, the wife of the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993 Presidential election.

The defendants have been sentenced to death by hanging.

Kudirat Abiola’s murder case is adjudged to be the longest criminal trials in the nation’s history, lasting more than 12 years with five successive judges during which time the accused persons were held in detention.

The time spent in prison calendar by the defendants is equivalent to 20 years.

The prosecution counsel led by Lawal Pedro had accused Al-Mustapha of ordering Sergeant Barnabas Jabila (Sgt. Rogers), who was then a member of both the Strike Force and Body Guards – military units within the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja, to kill Mrs Abiola.

Kudirat Abiola was shot dead on June 4, 1996 along the Lagos/ Ibadan Expressway, Lagos toll gate, opposite Cargo Vision, Ikeja in Lagos.

The prosecution also accused Mr Shofolahan, who was said to be Kudirat’s protocol officer, to have revealed the deceased’s itinerary to her assailants.

According to the prosecution, Mohammed Abdulof was alleged to have driven the car Jabila and Sholohan used to trail and killed Mrs Abiola.

Mr Shofolahan, however, denied that he ever worked for Kudirat in any capacity throughout her lifetime.

The prosecuting lawyers in their 34-page final written address, at the close of the trial on November 10, 2011, urged the court to convict the two accused persons as charged.