Godwin Tsa, Abuja
Justice Folashade Ogunbanjo-Giwa of the Federal High Court has given the Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC) the last chance to produce its remaining witnesses in the on-going trial of the Director-General of National Broadcasting Commission (NBC), Ishaq Kawu Modibbo, Pinnacle Communications Ltd, and two others.
Justice Ogunbanjo-Giwa who is sitting in the Abuja division of the court took the decision on Monday following the failure of ICPC to produce the remaining witnesses in court for the fourth consecutive time.
Consequently, the court directed the ICPC to produce the two witnesses on the next adjourned date of December 3rd, or risk closure of its case.
The two remaining witnesses slated to testify for ICPC are the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, and a Bureau de change operator who was subpoenaed by the court.
Miffed by the inability of the witnesses to appear in court, the defence counsel is praying the court to close the case of the prosecution.
In a short ruling, Justice Ogunbanjo-Giwa said the court could not at the moment ascertain the records of adjournment taking by the prosecution counsel, and assured that she would check the court’s record.
She warned the prosecution to desist from the way it was handling the matter, adding that the trial must be in accordance with the provisions of Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
“You cannot continue this way, the manner in which you are conducting this matter is not beneficial to the case.
“If you are interested in prosecuting this matter, please bring your witnesses to court on the next adjourned date.
“Now that the defendants are urging the court to foreclose the case of the complainant, you should see the handwriting on the wall.
“A word is enough for the wise. Please make your witnesses available in court on the next adjourned date. Sincerely, it cannot be in the interest of the prosecution if this case continues this way” the court warned.
Consequently, the court adjourned the case to December 3, 4 and 5 for the prosecution to call its remaining witnesses.
Earlier, Ephraim Otti, who announced appearance for the prosecution told the court that he could not bring the two witnesses to court because they were not around.
Whereas Otti said the bureau de change operator travelled to Dubai, no reason was adduced for the Information Minister’s absence in court.
He, therefore, begged the judge for another adjournment to enable him produce the witnesses in court.
Reacting, Akeem Mustapha SAN, counsel for the 1st defendant (Modibbo) had urged the court to grant the adjournment since it is their fourth request.
But counsel to the first and second defendants, Jovi Oguojiafor and the fourth defendant, Ama Etuwewe SAN vehemently opposed the request for an adjournment.
Both lawyers to the defendants urged the court to foreclose the case of the prosecution having failed in their undertaking to produce the witnesses in court as assured on October 2, the last date of adjournment.
“Today, the prosecution counsels are still giving the same reason they gave on October 2. We urge the court to foreclose the case of the prosecution.
“They are taking us on roller coaster ride and the plea for adjournment is another ploy to waste the precious time of the court.
Etuwewe reminded the court that on May 9, the prosecution called one witness, May 27 two witnesses, June 3 no witness, July 4 no witness and October 2 no witness, adding that in those days, the prosecution pleaded for adjournment to produce his remaining two witnesses.