“It is curious to note that delay in the trial persisted despite the passing of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, by the National Assembly.”
The case has dragged on now for 10 years. The more the case progressed, the more it got messier, compounded and nearly stalemated. Its handling stinks, and is full of suspects. It casts huge doubts on the administration of justice.
Senator Rasheed Adewolu Ladoja is former governor of Oyo State. He now holds the title of Osi Olubadan of Ibadanland. That makes him a high-ranking member of the Olubadan-in-Council.
He was elected governor in 2003 but was forced to take an unpleasant break for 11 months. He had the unique opportunity of coming back and the rare privilege of completing his tenure on May 29, 2007.
The case had a grand kick-off in November 2008. It was highly celebrated. Trust the press, it elaborately feasted on it. It was a case like no other.
A brief recap: Ladoja was first arraigned on a 10-count charge of money laundering with one of his aides, Waheed Akanbi, six other defendants were charged as well before Justice Ramat Mohammed. All pleaded not guilty and granted bail.
The case resurfaced four years later. They were re-arraigned before the three-man panel led by Justice Chima Nweze. By this time, four of the eight defendants were “lost.” They included Daisi, his company, Gregor Osu and his company. They were turned prosecution witnesses. That was the first amendment and second charge. Strange?
The second amendment followed the full steps of its predecessor. It reduced the defendants to only two by removing Atanda and his company from the list. Of course, they too graduated to prosecution witnesses.
Then came the third amendment in 2016. This compelled the case to start afresh before Justice Mohammed Idris. It was a watershed, the prosecution wanted Ladoja’s bail quashed. But the judge thought differently. He allowed Ladoja to continue his bail as granted by Justice Mohammed.
In his wisdom, there was no evidence that the accused (Ladoja) breached the bail granted him on September 5, 2008: “It is not out of place for this court to revalidate the order of A.R. Mohammed.” He adjourned the case to February 14, 15 and 16, 2017, for commencement of trial. He ruled that the court could not deny the accused bail on account of exercising their constitutional rights of appeal allegedly resulting in the delay of the case.
Something fundamental took place at this juncture. To forestall further delay all parties involved agreed to close their submissions on or before September 30, 2018. That was the last day Justice Mohammed could sit in that court. He was moved to the Appeal Court as a judge on October 1, 2018.
It is curious to note that delay in the trial persisted despite the passing of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015, by the National Assembly. ACJA came into being “to ensure that the system of administration of criminal justice in Nigeria promotes speedy dispensation of justice, protection of the society from crime and protection of the rights and interests of the suspect, the defendant and the victim.”
Ladoja put this at the back of his mind. He kept faith with the agreement. He made a “no-case submission” before closing his argument.
He was expectant that the judge would rule on this submission on September 27, 2018. But that was not to be. Instead, the prosecution came up with a bang. They brought amendment for the fourth time. It was a rude shock. It took the case many steps backwards.
The amendment was a direct response to the “no-case submission” in a wrong way, exposing the prosecution’s inadequacies. Instead of addressing the issues raised in the submission, the complainants (prosecution) brought up new complaints never mentioned in the past 10 years.
Justice Idris was, therefore, forced to postpone the case indefinitely.
He made it known he could only continue the case if his September 29 fiat was extended.
Sources said Ladoja has gone to ask for extension for Idris to conclude the case.
This has been a classical case of justice delayed, is justice denied.
How long can you hang somebody on a case, particularly criminal case?
In this our odd clime, a suspect is a subject of ridicule, no matter his innocence.
He is called all sorts of names, he is denied some privileges.
He cannot move freely in society. He cannot go about doing his legitimate business without fear. His family members also suffer ridicule and embarrassment.
People forget totally he is a suspect and not a convict. That he is still perceived innocent unless otherwise pronounced by a competent court of law.
In this case, the prosecution flouted all agreements. They had gone contrary to all known rules. They delayed ruling in the case with careless impunity. All adjournments and amendments in this suit have been at the instance of the Federal Government (Prosecution.) Not a single one came from the defendants.
The intention, though mischievous, is clear: To nail the defendants by all means. That is why they are desperately still shopping for evidence 10 years after.
It is disheartening and saddening that, three years after ACJA, the issue of delayed trial continues to haunt and hunt our judicial system. When will these funny court dramas end?
All through these strange amendments, the prosecution always brought in fresh and/or additional charges. Perhaps, the purpose was to place the defendants on perpetual defence and to give the dog a bad name so as to hang it. One may ask, who are the beneficiaries of these delays? Why are the beneficiaries being denied? Who is actually delaying trial/justice in this instance?
The answers are on our fingertips! And we keep those fragile fingers crossed, at least for now.