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Absence Of EFCC's Witness Stalls Ajudua's Trial

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The trial of Fred Ajudua on charges of defrauding two Dutch businessmen of 1.69 million dollars could not proceed on Monday at the Lagos High court, Ikeja owing to the absence of the prosecution witness.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC who is prosecuting the case told Presiding Justice Kudirat Jose that some of its witnesses who reside abroad where not in the country because the commission was unsure of how the matter would proceed.

Counsel to the EFCC, Wemimo Ogunde (SAN) informed the court that the defense counsel, Mr Olalekan Ojo had last week Friday, the 25th of April, served the commission with a process for a stay of proceedings.

He said that based on the incident, the EFCC could not extend an invitation to the witnesses to travel down to Nigeria even though the defense team later called to say that the process was served in error.

Mr Ogunde also told the court that the commission was been careful in extending invitation to witnesses because a similar incident had occurred in the past when the witnesses came but the matter did not proceed.

He subsequently asked for a 21 day period to enable the EFCC get the witnesses to attend the trial.

The defense counsel, Mr Olalekan Ojo however opposed the request for a 21 day adjournment, saying that the period was too long to get a witness from abroad.

Mr Ojo also said that it would be wrong for the court to grant such a long adjournment when his client has been refused bail.

He further submitted that the fact that his chamber mistakenly served the EFCC with a wrong process was not enough excuse for the commission not to bring its witnesses to the court.

Justice Jose however overruled the argument and adjourned the matter till May 23 for trial.

Ajudua and one Charles Okorie were earlier arraigned before Justice Joseph Oyewole in July 24, 2003 for allegedly defrauding Messrs Remy Cina and Pierre Vijgen between July 30, 1999 and Feb.9, 2000.

The matter was however stalled for almost 10 years as the defendants failed to attend their trial.

The duo was however re-arraigned last month before Justice Kudirat Jose on the same allegations.

At the re arraignment, the EFCC alleged that the defendants conspired to commit the offences between July 30, 1999 and Feb.9, 2000.

The commission also noted that the defendants deceived the victims that the money was for sundry payments to various government officials.

The EFCC further alleged that the defendants claimed that the payments would help them to facilitate a contract worth 18 million dollars on behalf of the complainants.

The offences according to the anti- graft agency contravene Sections 1(a) and (b) of the Advance Fee Fraud Act of 1995 as amended by Decree No. 62 of 1999.