Failure Of EFCC To Files Witness's Statement Stalls Kalu's Trial





Failure of the  Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to serve statement of one of its witnesses on the defence stalled the trial of former Governor of Abia State, Dr. Orji Uzor Kalu and two others over alleged fraud before Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court in Lagos.

 The matter was adjourned till today, for EFCC to open its case against the defendants but could not go on due objection raised by the defence over procedure being adopted by the prosecution for the trial.
 Kalu was re-arraigned by the EFCC on 34 counts of money laundering on October 31, 2016 alongside Udeh Udeogu and Slok Nigeria Limited.
The defendants were arraigned before Justice  Idris, they pleaded not guilty and were released on bail.

 On resumption of proceedings, the court directed the anti-graft agency to call its first witness in the case.
The witness, Onovah Ovenevoh, was about to begin his testimony when lawyer to the 2nd and 3rd defendants, Chief Solo Akuma (SAN) drew the court's attention to the fact that the statement of the witness was not part of the proof of evidence given to him by the prosecution.
Akuma said service of witness statement on the defence is a constitutional right and a facility that should be provided for an accused
 person as enshrined in Section 36(6)(b) of the Constitution.

"Where a witness is listed in the proof of evidence and his statement is  not front loaded, such a witness should not be allowed to testify.
"Section 379(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) listed the contents of proof of evidence to be the summary of the statements of the witnesses to be called by the prosecution.
 "For the sake fair trial, the court should not allow the prosecution to cut the defendants unaware, it is duty of EFCC to make available all the necessary documents needed to proof its case against the defendants, how criminal trial  should be conducted was clearly stated in ACJA",
 he said.

Also speaking in the same vein, Kalu's lawyer, Chief Mike Ozhekome (SAN) said it is very important for the prosecution to make the statement of the witness available not only to the defence but also to the court.
 "We ought to know what the witness is going to tell the court and not to be caught by surprise.
"Section 36(1)of the Constitution emphasized the need for an accused person to be given fair hearing and for us to have fair hearing, there must be fair trial. Fair trial demands that the prosecution must front load all the statements of witnesses it intend to call to prove its case", he said.
 Ozhekome while aligning himself fully with the submissions of the lawyer to the 2nd and 3rd defendants, urged the court to hold that since the prosecution has not provided the statement, the witness cannot testify.
 Countering the defence counsel submission,  EFCC's lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN) urged the court to discountenance their submissions.

 Jacobs submitted that the witness was in court by virtue of a court's order summoning him to appear and as such the commission should
 not be concerned about providing his statement again.
 "It is in compliance with the order of the court that the witness is here. He is a court's witness and not a prosecution witness.
 "The role played by the witness was displayed on page 19 of the proof of evidence. This should qualify as his statement"
 Ruling on the matter has been fixed for today.

 It will be recalled that the matter was also stalled at the last adjourned date owing to the lateness of the prosecuting counsel for EFCC Mr. Adebisi Adeniyi, to court.



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