N90m Fraud: Judge insists on Continuation of Trial
Justice E.A Adebajo of the Lagos high court has said that he will continue with the trial of two accused persons namely; Sunday Akinyemi who is wanted by the FBI in US and Olu Osho who are both facing a 30 count charge of conspiracy to steal, stealing, forgery and altering as preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC until he is directed to do otherwise.
The judge disclosed this today, Thursday May 12 even as the defence counsel, Banojo Badejo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, informed the court that he has received a petition written by his client, Sunday Akinyemi, alleging bias against the trial judge, Justice E. A. Adebajo. Consequently, Badejo applied to withdraw from representing his client on the grounds that his client has betrayed the trust he has in him.
At the resumed hearing of the case today, Counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Oyedepo told the court to compel the accused person to be present in court at the next sitting. He said that the accused person who claimed that he is sick and making serious allegations against the trial judge is capable of coming to court. “The strength the 1 st defendant dissipated in writing series of petition is enough to enable him face his trial in court,” he said. He also informed the court that it was not the first time that the accused was alleging bias against a judge once he perceives that ruling may not be in his favour. “It should be recalled that the 1 st defendant had similarly petitioned Justice Oke Lawal, to the Honourable Chief Judge of Lagos when the case was first assigned to Honourable Justice Oke Lawal of Igbosere High Court,” he said. It was on the strength of his petition that made Justice Oke Lawal to withdraw from the case and it was assigned to Justice Adebajo.
However, Justice E. A. Adebajo told Badejo to be in court at the next adjourned date. He said that not until a directive comes from the Lagos Chief Judge, he will continue to hear the case. He then adjourned to 3 rd of June 2011 for hearing and consideration.
Akinyemi has had issues with his lawyers as Badejo is the third counsel he is hiring to defend him in the case. Barrister Adegbeke and Professor Akin Ibidapo-Obe were two lawyers he had previously hired.
Akinyemi and Osho were said to have conspired to steal about N90 million from Texas Connection Ferries Limited, when Akinyemi held sway as its managing director.
Akinyemi and his co-traveler were first arraigned by the EFCC on the 16 th of March 2010 before Justice Oke Lawal of the Lagos High Court. Akinyemi's application for bail was refused by Justice Oke Lawal on the 24th of March because of his alleged criminal record. Their subsequent arraignment before Justice J. Adebajo is squel to a petition dated April 16,2010 by counsel to the accused person, Professor Ibidapo Obe who petitioned the chief judge that they were uncomfortable with Justice Oke Lawal handling the case. The case was thereafter re-assigned to Justice Adebajo.
While refusing the accused bail then,Justice Oke Lawal had stated that, “The prosecutor has placed before the court evidence of criminal antecedents of the defendant and coupling that with the other factors of the nature of the charges, strength of evidence, the severity of the punishment, likelihood of repetition of offence, danger of accused absconding and/or interfering with the witness. I find that the prosecution has placed weighty evidence before the court,” adding that “The contention of counsel to the applicant that the court should not take into consideration the exhibits attached because they are certified by the USA and are photocopies is irrelevant at the stage as admissibility issues are not for consideration at this stage, and oral evidence cannot be given by counsel from the bar to discredit the content of a document.”
The Judge stated further that “There is always the discretion to refuse bail if the court is satisfied that there are substantial grounds for believing that the applicant will abscond or interfere with witnesses or obstruct justice or on the record of convictions or likelihood of repetition of offence and real evidence that accused will suppress or interfere with witnesses or evidence,”.
“It is clear in this case that the prosecution has placed before the court weighty reasons why the applicant should not be granted bail. The facts have not been discredited by the applicant. The facts as contained in the documents attached to the counter affidavit is unchallenged and uncontradicted"
Justice Oke Lawal's refusal to grant bail to the accused persons is in no doubt sequel to the submission of EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo who told the court to refuse the accused persons bail. He said the first accused had jumped bail in the US and that there was no guarantee that he would not jump bail again. Indeed, an enquiry from the US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation by EFCC Operatives lent credence to this. A letter from the Office of Legal Attache, US Consulate General, Lagos stated thus: “Per US Criminal history checks conducted on 27 April 2009, Sunday Akinyemi, also known as (AKA) Sunny Osho Akinyemi, Sunny Adegun and Oladunni Akinyemi, Date of Birth 6 December 1955 (also used 5 November 1948 and 14 June 1955) was arrested in July 1993 by the Drug Enforcement Administration in Houston, Texas on charges on money laundering, conspiracy and possession of heroin. On 22 September 1995 he was convicted and sentenced to 108 months in prison, after violating terms of pre-trial release on 10 August 1993 .” Also “On 10 November 2004, Akinyemi was arrested by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in Jacksonville , Florida on charges of income tax violations. Akinyemi failed to appear for judicial proceedings and an arrest warrant was issued by the US Marshals Service in Houston, Texas for his arrest on 9December 2004” .