Witness alleges death threat as court orders protection of defendants in Justice Ademola, others’ trial

JUSTICE Jude Okeke of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court, sitting at Maitama, Abuja, on Monday ordered the police authorities to protect prosecution, witnesses and even the defendants in the ongoing trial of Justice Adeniyi Ademola, his wife, Olabowale and Joe Odey Agi (SAN).

He also ordered the police to investigate an alleged attempted murder on one of the witnesses the prosecution intended to call in the ongoing trial of the federal judge and other defendants, Dr Shuaibu Teidi, by some armed men early Monday morning.

According to the trial judge, “For the purpose of the trial, the Inspector General of Police has been directed to provide security for not only the prosecution witnesses, but also the defendants and their witnesses so that the smooth trial of the case would not be hindered in any way.”

The judge gave the orders following the request by the prosecution counsel, Segun Jegede, that the court should order an investigation into an alleged attempted murder of Dr Teidi.

Jegede had informed the court that he got a call at about 2.00 a.m. on Monday from Dr Teidi, telling him that he narrowly escaped in his house.

According to the prosecution counsel, eight armed scaled the fence of Teidi’s residence and gained access into the house, where they told Teidi’s children that it was their father they came for and further informed that Dr Teidi had to call his friend who called the police to inform them of what was happening in the house before the police moved in to rescue the man and took him to the station.”

Jegede added that, “three days ago when I was having a meeting with Dr Teidi, he mentioned to me that he had received a call from someone who said he wanted a broker talk between him and Justice Ademola.”

It was at this stage that counsel for the first defendant, Dr Onyeachi Ikpeazu (SAN), raised an objection, saying that if a client was mentioned in any form or allegation, “you approach the counsel on the other side. This is how it is done all over the world.”

He told the court that his attention was never called to anything of such against Justice Ademola, adding that the prosecution should take its complaints to the Department of State Services (DSS) to investigate.

Responding to this, Jegede stated that there was nowhere in either the Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJ) Act 2015 or any other law where the procedure the counsel for the first defendant articulated was stated, saying that the incident he was reporting to the court happened by 2.00 a.m. on Monday.

He reminded the court that he had complained to the court at its penultimate sitting that some witnesses had complaind over their lives being threatened and requested the court should order an investigation into the matter in order for other witnesses to be able to come to court.

Ruling on the matter, Justice Okeke has directed the police at the Maitama division to investigate the matter.

While ruling earlier on the objection raised by the defence at the last sitting on January 17, on the move by the  prosecution to call it sixth witness (PW6), Malik Olatunde, a staff member of GT Bank, on the ground that he was neither named on the list of witnesses nor any of his statement or a summary of the statement or any bank  staff for that matter provided by the prosecution for the defence to prepare for their case in accordance with Section 379 (iii) of the 1999 Constitution.

Justice Okeke ruled that the prosecution should include in the proof of evidence the appropriate summary of the evidence of the witness and make same available to the defendants, failure of that, the witness shall not be allowed to testify in court.

He stated that Section 379 (1) (a) sub 3 of ACJA intended that the proof of evidence shall contain its summary of the evidence of the witnesses the intended to call and not written copies of their statements.

Meanwhile, the counsel for the defendant objected to the application by Jegede for adjournment till February 1 for the prosecution to call other witnesses.

According to Ikpeazu (SAN), the prosecution should either apply for the withdrawal of the case or the court should strike out the case as it was obvious that the prosecution was not ready for the case.

He noted that 14 witnesses were scheduled by the prosecution to testify for it in the case, adding that none of the other remaining witnesses was said to have been threatened.

He added that though each party was entitled to five adjournments, there should be cogent reason for such adjournments, saying that in the final analysis, “adjournment is at the discretion of the court.”

Counsel for the second defendant, Mrs Ademola, Chief Robert Clarke (SAN), stated that there were supposed to be three or four witnesses who ought to be in court on Monday to testify, adding that it was the cornerstone if criminal case that justice had to be quickly dispensed.

According to him, the application for the adjournmet was uncalled for, unreasonable and against the present administration’s tenet of quick dispensation of justice.

Jeph Njikonye, counsel for the third defendant, aligned himself with the submissions of other defendants’ counsel, adding that the defendants were very important personalities in the society and their duties were being held in abeyance due to the ongoing trial.

He urged the court not to allow any adjournment, saying that Section 1 (1) of the ACJA made provision for quick dispensation of criminal matter, adding that it was in view of this that the court granted accelerated hearing of the case.

Ruling on the application for adjournment, the trial judge held that the prosecution did not give cogent reason to justify the adjournment he prayed for, adding that there was a stringent call for quick and speedy dispensation of justice.

According to him, “the court is minded in the exercise of its discretion to further indulge the prosecution to grant this application which will make it the third application at the instance of the prosecution.

“The case cannot be adjourned till February 1 but rather to January 31 for the hearing of the prosecution witness case,” the judge said, warning, however that, “on the last note, the prosecution should ensure that the witnesses are in court, failing which the court will be constrained to do the needful.”