By NBF News

THE Court of Appeal, Lagos Division has struck out additional record of appeal compiled by the former Chairman of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, (NDLEA) Bello Lafiaji and his ex-Special Assistant, Usman Amali.

Justice Clara Bata-Ogunbiyi (presiding) stuck out the additional record following withdrawal of same by Professor Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), counsel to the appellants.

The court held that the appellants had two choices, namely, either to withdraw the additional record or a new panel would be constituted to hear the appeal afresh.

The court has earlier reserved judgment on the appeal but later discovered that there was problem in the pagination of the additional record compiled by the defendants hence invited parties to come and address the court on the issue.

Counsel to NDLEA, Olalekan Ashas from Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) chambers in his submission urged the court to discountenance the additional record of appeal, adding that the additional record was filed after the respondent (NDLEA) filed its respondents brief of argument.

He further submitted that the additional record should be expunged from the record of appeal.

In his rely, NDLEA counsel stated that Osipitan was part of the meeting where the correction on pagination was effected, adding that the respondent signed a joint statement showing that the error have been corrected.

He wondered why the respondent decided to renege on an agreement willingly signed by their lawyer, adding that he would prefer to withdraw the additional record of appeal in order to hasten the final determination of the appeal.

Justice Olusola Williams of a Lagos High Court had in her judgment sentenced Lafiaji to 16 years imprisonment for abuse of office and conspiracy. His erstwhile special assistant, Usman Amali, also bagged a seven-year jail term.

But the appellants in their grounds of appeal urged the court to allow the appeal and set aside the judgment of the lower court on the ground that the said judgment was read straight from laptop and was thereafter downloaded and signed by the judge.

The appellant contended that such a procedure did not comply with Section 279 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State, 2008.

Osipitan further argued that section 294 (1) of the 1999 Constitution specifically stated that judgment should be delivered in writing and signed and not to be read on laptop.

According to him, Section 294 (1) says: 'Every court established under this constitution shall deliver its decision in writing not later than ninety days after the conclusion of evidence and final addresses and furnish all parties to the cause or matter determined with duly authenticated copies of the decision within seven days of the delivery thereof.

'While Section 294 (2) says each Justice of the Supreme Court or of the Court of Appeal shall express and deliver his opinion in writing, or may state in writing that he adopts the opinion of any other Justice who delivers a written opinion.'

But counsel to Independent Corrupt Practices and other related Offences Commission (ICPC), Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) urged the court to dismiss the appeal for lack of merit, arguing that none of the issues raised by the appellant arose from the appellant/respondent briefs.

Author of this article: By Joseph Onyekwere
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