An Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Monday warned the prosecution to refrain from delaying the ongoing trial of a judge, Adeniyi Ademola, currently facing corruption charges.
The trial judge, Jude Okeke, gave the warning on Monday after the EFCC counsel, Segun Jegede, demanded an adjournment due to alleged threats to the life of a prosecution witness, Shuaibu Teidi.
Mr. Jegede told the court that Mr. Teidi’s life has been under threat and that the witness reported the matter to the police, who took him to a safe place.
According to the prosecution counsel, the development resulted in the inability of Mr. Teidi to attend trial on Monday.
Responding to the allegation, defence counsel Onyechi Ikpeazu said the accusations were baseless, stressing that he had no prior knowledge of the matter before meeting the prosecution counsel in court on Monday.
He queried the failure of the prosecution to report the matter to him, outside the opened court and urged the court to disregard the allegations.
In a short ruling on the matter, Justice Okeke held that his court will not address fully the allegation of threat, but asked that the police protect the prosecution, as well as the defence and their witnesses.
After the ruling, Mr. Jegede demanded that the court adjourns till Wednesday to allow him time to contact Mr. Teidi.
That request was frowned at by Mr. Okeke who noted that the prosecution had listed 14 witnesses intended to be brought to court.
Mr. Okeke said the prosecution had only complained about a threat on the life of one witness and wondered how that could be used as a basis for seeking an adjournment.
Justice Adeniyi Ademola
“This is not acceptable to court. The record of the court showed that the matter was adjourned till today for ruling and continuation of trial.
“Prosecution has other people listed as witnesses asides from Dr. Teidi and the prosecution has not said any of the other witnesses are being threatened. The implication is that apart from Teidi and a staff of GTB, the prosecution is not prepared to proceed with the trial.
“This is unacceptable to the court. The court is ready to go ahead with the trial. It was on that the court granted an order of accelerated trial. Even today, because of this case, the court this morning adjourned 11 other cases so as to hear the witnesses.”
The judge said the prosecution succeeded in disrupting the schedule for Monday.
“The action of the prosecution has made the court to act in vain, especially to the defendants and other litigants that their cases were originally listed.
“The application for adjournment is uncalled for, unreasonable and does not fall in line with the attitude of the present government as contained in ACJA. It is not good enough, it is not with the spirit of time.
“On account of the foregoing, the prosecution has not given a cogent reason for the grant of the application, but the court will indulge the prosecution by granting the adjournment.
“But instead of Wednesday requested for by the prosecution, I will adjourn till tomorrow, and if the prosecution fails again to produce its witness, the court will do the needful. To ‘before warned is to before harmed,” Mr. Okeke said.
Mr. Ademola and his wife, Olubowale, are being tried for receiving bribes worth hundreds of millions of naira from various parties in court.
They have both denied any wrongdoing and Mr. Ademola, a judge of the federal high court, has asked for accelerated hearing.