By Lukman Olabiyi
Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court, Lagos, will, today, rule on objection raised by former Abia State Governor, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu, over a document sought to be tendered as an exhibit by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in a case against him.
Kalu raised the objection through his legal team, led by Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN) and Goddy Uche (SAN), at yesterday’s proceedings, when EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) prayed the court to admit an exhibit tendered through the first prosecution witness, Onovah Oghenevoh.
The witness, who is a banker, while being led in evidence by Jacobs, told the court how his bank got request from EFCC on September 29, 2006, concerning some transactions made by the Abia State government.
He said the request of the commission was in respect of 27 bank drafts issued by defunct Manny Bank, Umuahia branch. He said the bank had, in its response dated October 13, 2006, to the EFCC’s request, attached the customer’s name, the account number and copies of the bank drafts to a cover letter. The prosecution prayed the court to admit the documents as exhibit, but the defence raised objections to the admissibility of the documents attached to the cover letter.
In his objections to the admissibility of the documents, Ozekhome said its certification by the EFCC was erroneous.
“It is legally untenable for the commission to certify a document, which was originally in possession of the bank. The bank is in a better position to certify the document,” he said. Ozekhome also said since the witness was not the maker of the documents, it would be difficult for the defence to cross-examine him on it.
Besides, he said it was too late for the court to ask the prosecution to regularise the certification process of the documents because the defence had already raised its objections. He urged the court to reject the documents attached to the cover letter.
Speaking in the same vein, lawyer to the second defendant, Chief Solo Akuma (SAN) urged the court to reject the documents because it was not properly certified.
Lawyer to the third accused person, K. C. Nwofo (SAN) also raised objections to the admissibility of the documents on the grounds that the witness was not the maker.
“EFCC certifying the documents is an anomaly because the documents were originally not in the commission’s custody,” he said.
In his reply, EFCC’s lawyer, Jacobs, said once there was no objection to the cover letter, the entire document should be taken by the court as exhibit
He said the commission had only certified the letter sent to it by the bank, which is now in its possession and that the certification was in substantial compliance with Section 104 of the Evidence Act. Ruling on whether or not to admit the documents as exhibit has been fixed for today.
Earlier yesterday, the court overruled the objections raised by the defence regarding the competence of the witness to testify in the matter on the grounds that the prosecution had not provided his statement.
Justice Idris, in his ruling, agreed with the prosecution that the witness, under subpoena, should be allowed to testify in the matter irrespective of whether his statement is available or not. The court, however, directed the prosecution to ensure it provided the defence with the statements of all other witnesses in the matter that are not under subpoena. Kalu, Udeh Jones Udeogu and Slok Nigeria Limited were on October 31, 2016, arraigned before the court by the EFCC on a 34-count charge of alleged N3.2 billion fraud, wherein they pleaded not guilty.