A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos on Wednesday directed the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to ensure proper service of all necessary documents it intends to use in the prosecution fraud and money laundering case against a former Governor of Abia State, Dr Orji Uzor Kalu and two others.
Justice Mohammed Idris gave the order after the defence counsels in the suit raised objections to the admissibility of a document sought to be tendered by the EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) as exhibit through it third prosecution witness, Tunde Adeniyi David during the trial.
Leading the witness in Evidence in Chief, Jacobs had sought to tender the statements of account of Abia State Government House, urging the court to admit them as exhibits.
But the defendants’ counsel, the trio of Goddy Uche (SAN), Solo Akuma (SAN) and K C Nwofor objected to the attempt by Jacobs to tender the documents as evidence.
They objected on the grounds that the document was different from what was front-loaded by the prosecution in the proof of evidence.
In his submissions, Kalu’s lawyer, Goddy Uche (SAN) said it was wrong for the prosecution to seek to tender a document that was never made available to the defence.
“The documents being shown to us were not front-loaded. They are totally different from what was front-loaded in the proof of evidence. We are totally taken by surprise this morning. The document was only made yesterday,” he said.
He urged the court to adjourn the matter to allow the defence study the documents after they might have been properly served on it by the prosecution.
Lawyers to the second defendant, Akuma (SAN) however urged the court to reject the documents over the failure of the prosecution to comply with Section 379 (1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) which mandates the front-loading of all documents it intends to rely on in a criminal trial.
“My submission is that this document is being produced for the first time today. It is mandatory that we must have an advanced copy of all the documents to be used by the prosecution.
“We therefore urge the court to reject the documents owing to the failure of the prosecution to front-load it in the proof of evidence,” he said.
Akuma’s position was also corroborated by the third defendant’s lawyer, K. C. Nwofo (SAN).
In a bench ruling, Justice Idris held that having not been earlier front-loaded, the document was not yet admissible.
“In line with the provisions of Section 379 (1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), a proof of evidence must contain all documents to be relied upon by the prosecution in a criminal trial.
“There is no doubt that the documents sought to be tendered is not in the proof of evidence. These documents cannot be admitted at this stage.
“In the interest of justice, the prosecution is directed to make the documents available to the defence to enable it study it,” the judge held.
The Judge therefore adjourned the matter till Thursday.