The trial of Fred Ajudua for allegedly obtaining money to the tune of $8.4 million suffered a setback on Monday after his lawyer sought an adjournment before Justice Josephine Oyefeso of the Lagos State High Court sitting in the Ajah area.
Ajudua, who was represented in court by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Olalekan Ojo, was alleged to have defrauded a former Chief of Army Staff, Ishaya Bamaiyi, of the sum while they were both in Kirikiri Prison, Lagos in 2004 for different offences.
The defendant is being prosecuted for offences related to fraud by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Ajudua, alongside his accomplices, allegedly approached Bamaiyi and convinced him that he could hire the legal services of a senior advocate, Afe Babalola, at the cost of $8.4 million to help secure the release of the former army chief.
At the resumed sitting on Monday, the prosecution counsel, Seidu Atteh, told the court that the prosecution received a letter from Ojo, stating that he would not be present in court and also sought an adjournment of the trial.
“In the letter, he also requested three hearing days in December,” Atteh was quoted as saying in a statement by the EFCC spokesman, Wilson Uwujaren.
Atteh also told the court that after the case was filed in 2013, it suffered a series of preliminary objections till November 6, 2018, when the trial commenced.
“From the records of the court, it appears the defence counsel has little or no time for this case,” he said. “The first prosecution witness has been in the witness box since November 6, 2018, and up until now, he has not finished giving his evidence.
“We acknowledge that the defendant has the constitutional right to engage any counsel of his choice, but the counsel also has to have time for the case. It is not proper that the defence counsel has to be the one fixing dates for this case.”
Atteh, therefore, asked the court for a date in November after he submitted that the defendant could engage another lawyer if his lawyer was unavailable so as not to waste the time of the court.
“I have noted the concerns of the prosecution, and the SAN must devote time for this criminal charge,” Justice Oyefeso held in a short ruling. “We must ensure that the case is completed expeditiously and without further excuses.”
The matter was adjourned until November 15 and December 6 for the continuation of the trial.
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