crime

ROAD CLOSED: Court dismisses EFCC’s prayer to recall witnesses in suit against ex-NNPC GMD

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Written by Maritime First

It may be a ‘road closed for Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) as Federal High Court, Abuja, on Thursday, refused to grant it’s application to recall two of its witnesses in the trial of Mr Andrew Yakubu, former Group Managing Director (GMD), Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

Justice Ahmed Mohammed, in a ruling, held that though the court had discretionary power to do so, granting the request after the prosecution and the defence had closed their case would inhibit the defendant’s right to a fair hearing.

The EFCC had, on Sept. 22, informed that the commission had a pending motion dated June 18 and filed June 25, seeking for an order of the court for a recall of third prosecution witness, Ahmed Yahaya, and six prosecution witnesses, Suleiman Mohammed, for further examination-in-chief and possible further cross-examination in respect of the extant counts three and four of the charge.

The anti-graft agency said it sought the order on the grounds that the witnesses were led in evidence by the former prosecuting counsel and that the lawyer did not make maximum use of the witnesses being sought to be recalled in extracting relevant evidence from the said witnesses in proof of counts three and four.

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The commission argued further that the witnesses being sought to be recalled were very material in proving counts three and four, among other grounds.

However, Yakubu’s counsel, Anone Usman, who held the brief of Ahmed Raji, SAN, acknowledged that a counter affidavit was filed by June 28 in opposition to the EFCC’s motion.

He urged the court to dismiss the application for being unmeritorious and highly vexatious.

Justice Mohammed had fixed Nov. 18 for ruling after the parties in the suit adopted their processes.

Delivering the ruling, the judge said he had perused the arguments of the counsel.

According to him, the following facts stand uncontested; that all the prosecution witnesses were examined, cross-examined and discharged.

He said he was not unmindful of the provision of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) which gives the court discretion to make an order to recall any witness in any matter but he did not see any reason to do so.

He cited previous cases to back his view.

The judge who held that a witness cannot be recalled simply because there is a new finding in the course of the investigation, said: “There must be an end to litigation.”

Mohammed further held that if granted, it could necessitate the reopening of the case which could, in turn, delay justice delivery.

“Consequently upon this, the application is hereby refused,” he ruled.

The judge then adjourned the matter until Jan. 11 for the adoption of final written addresses.

“Since the prosecution and defence have closed their case, I hereby ordered the parties to file their final written addresses,” he directed.

Mohammed, who gave the defence counsel 24 hours from the adjourned date to file their final written addresses, gave the prosecution counsel 21 days to file their final written address upon service.

The anti-graft agency had, in 2017, raided the residence of the ex-NNPC boss in Kaduna and found 9, 772, 800 dollars and 74, 000 pounds (9.7 million dollars and 74, 000 pounds) in a safe.

Yakubu was, however, arraigned on March 16 2017, on six counts but the trial court struck out counts five and six.

The Court of Appeal also ordered the former GMD to defend only count three and four which bordered on failure to make full disclosure of assets, receiving cash without going through a financial institution.

Yakubu had, on July 8, 2020, told the court that a substantial part of the money found at his Kaduna residence by EFCC was given to him as a gift after leaving office.

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Maritime First