A Federal High Court in Abuja on Monday rescheduled the trial of a former Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Badeh, to commence on Wednesday.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission called its first witness on Monday but the matter could not proceed on the account of a fresh proof of evidence newly served on Badeh and the second accused, Iyalikam Nigeria Limited.
It was learnt that the fresh proof of evidence, a copy of which was served on Badeh on Friday, comprised an additional statement made by the ex-Chief of Defence Staff to the EFCC.
It was also learnt that other statements made to the commission by one of its operatives and two other proposed prosecution witnesses were also part of the fresh proof of evidence.
The EFCC is prosecuting Badeh and Iyalikam Nigeria Limited on 10 counts of money laundering involving alleged fraudulent diversion of about N3.97bn from the account of the Nigerian Air Force between January and December 2013.
The prosecution alleged that Badeh acquired choice landed assets in various parts of Abuja for himself and his son, Laex Badehy (Jnr.) with the money.
After the defendants were arraigned on March 7, Justice Okon Abang, ordered that Badeh be remanded in Kuje prison pending the hearing and determination of his bail application.
The judge had fixed Monday for commencement of trial, and subsequently on March 10 granted bail to Badeh in the sum of N2bn.
Badeh, who was produced in court on Monday by prison authorities, has yet to meet the bail conditions.
He was returned to custody after the Monday’s proceedings.
When the case was called on Monday, the lead prosecuting counsel, Mr. Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), invited his first prosecution witness to the box, but Badeh’s lawyer, Chief Akin Olujinmi (SAN), urged the court to adjourn the case.
His request for adjournment was anchored the grounds that he just took over as the lead defence counsel and needed time to be “properly” briefed by his client, whom he said he had yet to have access due to his (Badeh’s) continued incarceration.
Olujinmi also said he needed time to study the proof of evidence that was only served on him on Friday.
Iyalikam Nigeria Limited’s lawyer, Mr. S.T Ologunorisa (SAN), also asked for adjournment on the basis that he was only served with the additional proof of evidence some moments before the Monday’s proceedings started.
Ologunorisa said, “To commence trial this morning will be an infringement on our constitutional right to be given adequate time and facility to prepare for the defence. I urge your lordship to err on th side of the accused persons.”
In opposition, Jacobs said none of the reasons on which the application for adjournment was predicated, was sufficient as grounds for adjourning a criminal trial.
Jacobs said, “Section 396 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act says upon arraignment, trial shall proceed from day to day.
“The Senior Advocate of Nigeria (Mr. Samuel Zibiri, SAN) who was doing his case, is still a member of the team. It’s not that he has withdrawn. Therefore the first defendant cannot bring another SAN in order to scuttle the trial this morning.
“Section 19(2)(b) of EFCC Act prescribes that cases in court must be conducted in dispatch.
“Section19(2)(c) also prescribes that the court will adopt all necessary legal measures to avoid unnecessary delay.”
In his ruling, Justice Abang granted the application for adjournment only on the basis of the newly filed additional proof of evidence.
He fixed Wednesday for “commencement of trial without fail”.
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