The corruption trial of two former governors, Orji Uzor Kalu of Abia state and Rasheed Ladoja of Oyo state, was adjourned indefinitely by Justice Muhammed Idris of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos on Thursday, Premium Times reports.
Kalu is standing trial alongside his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo, and his company, Slok Nigeria Limited, on an amended 39-count charge of money laundering to the tune of N7.6bn, while Ladoja is facing trial alongside a former Commissioner for Finance in the state, Waheed Akanbi, for allegedly laundering a sum of N4.7 billion from the coffers of the Oyo State government.
Kalu’s case had been adjourned to today for the defence to open its case.
However, at the resumed hearing, Justice Idris informed the court that the fiat issued to him by the President of the Court of Appeal would expire tomorrow, September 28.
The judge, who was elevated to the appellate court sometime in June 2018, was issued a fiat to conclude some of the criminal cases that are before him by the end of this month.
The judge also said that in line with the ongoing nationwide strike, it might be impossible for the defence team to conclude its defence.
He, however, sought the opinion of counsel on the way forward.
Counsel to the first defendant, Awa Kalu, urged the court to adjourn the matter on the grounds it might be impossible to conclude the trial in view of the underlying issues. “My Lord, we are ready to open our case.
“However, it may be an exercise in futility to start now only to stop tomorrow.
“We have two witnesses before the court, who will need to defend before this matter is brought to conclusion and that may seem impossible because of the expiration of the fiat.
“It may, therefore, be prudent to determine the faith of the fiat before we continue.”
The counsel to the second and third defendants, Solo Akuma and K.C. Nwofo, aligned with the submissions of Mr Kalu.
The prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, however, opposed the applications of the defence team.
He argued that the case had been previously adjourned to today for the defence to open its case.“My Lord, this is the sixth time the defence team is asking for adjournment.
“I urge the court to discountenance the submissions of the defence team and call on them to commence; and if they don’t finish, we can re-apply for renewal of the fiat,” he further said.
“In line with the ongoing strike, the matter will be adjourned sine die,” he added.
The judge also held that either party was at liberty to apply to the President of the Court of Appeal for the renewal of the fiat in line with the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act, ACJA.
Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos, on Thursday, adjourned indefinitely the ongoing trial of a former governor of Oyo State, Rasheed Ladoja.
Mr Ladoja is facing trial alongside a former Commissioner for Finance in the state, Waheed Akanbi, for allegedly laundering a sum of N4.7 billion from the coffers of the Oyo State government.
On Ladajo’s trial, the prosecution counsel, O. O. Olabisi, stated that he had filed an amended charge against the defendant before the court.
He also prayed for an extension of the fiat issued to the judge by the President of the Court of Appeal to conclude the matter this month.
Counsel to the first defendant, Bolaji Onilenla, opposed the application of prosecution to amend the charge,saying, “At this critical stage, the prosecution cannot amend the charge.”
Mr Onilenla, however, aligned himself with the prayer of the prosecution for an extension of the fiat given the presiding judge.
Counsel to the second defendant, Olumide Fisikan, sought to move his application of no-case submission.
He also aligned himself with other counsel in the matter that the judge should seek an extension of the fiat on the matter.
In his short ruling, Justice Idris held that either party was at liberty to apply to the President of the Court of Appeal for the renewal of the fiat in line with the Administration of the Criminal Justice Act, ACJA.
“To be on a safe side, this case must be adjourned sine die,” he further held.
The defendants were first arraigned in 2008 before Justice A.R. Mohammed.
They, however, challenged the validity of the charges up to the Supreme Court.
The apex court in 2015 dismissed their appeal and ordered them to go back to the lower court to face their trial.
They were subsequently re-arraigned on December 14, 2016 before Justice Idris.