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Saturday, June 18, 2016

EFCC v. Oronsaye: Judge stops witness over chart explanation

The presiding Judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole at the Federal High Court, Abuja, has stopped witness from using chart to offer explanation at the ongoing case between the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) versus Nigeria’s former Head of Service, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye, Osarenkhoe Afe, and three others, reports ITRealms.

Ruling in favour of the defence team against an attempt by the Commission’s first prosecution witness (Pw1), Rouqayya Ibrahim to use a chart to give her evidence, the judge said, the witness, an operative of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, who came as the Commission’s first Prosecution Witness on the request to use a Chart in the Court to explain the findings of the EFCC in the course of investigation of the alleged fraud in Pension payments in Nigeria.

Opposing the request, lead Counsel to Mr. Stephen Oronsaye, Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN), argued that the chart, as displayed, having photographs of the accused persons will not allow for fair trial.

“The chart, having photographs of the accused persons will be prejudicial and will not allow for fair trial. When I saw the chart, I thought it was a document earlier frontloaded to us, but we just noticed that we received it here in Court. If it is a document they intend to use, they should serve it on us properly,” he said.

Adding his voice, Counsel to the second and third defendants, Mr. Oluwole Aladoyele described the practise as strange to his team, arguing that it does not conform to the provisions of the Evidence Act, relying on Section 239 of the Act.

He urged the Court to disallow what he described as a strange procedure, further describing the information on the chart as the personal opinion of the prosecution witness.
Canvassing in favour of the use of the Chart, Prosecution Counsel, Mr. Adebisi Adeniye argued that the opposition to the Chart was misconceived.

“I submit that the opposition to the usage of the chat is misconceived. It is not a situation where we hope to tender the document in evidence. What the witness has said is that she has a chat with which she can demonstrate the investigation she carried out and her findings. Even under the evidence Act, this witness can refresh her memory.”

In his ruling, the presiding Judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole upheld the arguments of the two defence counsels, disallowing the use of the demonstration chart.

‘‘If the chart will not be tendered as an exhibit, of what use is it? If I merely have to listen to the PW1’s explanations, of what use is it when the judgement will be written? If the use of the chart is merely to demonstrate how the fraud was perpetrated and not tendered as an exhibit, it will not be useful in judgement. I agree with the view of the counsel to the 2nd and 3rd defendants that the chart will be prejudicial. PW1 has not shown any sign of one with loss of memory. She appears to be clever and clearheaded. It is also important that the defendants are accorded fair hearing and fair trial. It is either the Chart is tendered as an exhibit or is out rightly discarded. My decision is to disallow this, which the PW1 introduced by herself without guidance by the prosecution Counsel. The Chart is disallowed from being demonstrated to the Court.”

Similarly, an attempt made by the same prosecution Counsel to pray the Court to accept a Statement made by the second defendant as an exhibit was also blocked by the defence Counsel, who argued that the said statement made in the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission was written under duress. He made a case for a ‘trial-within- trial’, a prayer that was granted by the presiding Judge.

‘‘I object to the admissibility of this document. It was made through oppression, using the exact words of the Evidence Act. I am particular about the statements made on the 24th of February, 2011 and 16th of March, 2011. They were made through oppression, as he was threatened, induced and harassed to make the statements and we intend to demonstrate this if my lord graciously orders trial within trial to demonstrate to you that these documents are inadmissible. He was bundled,‘‘ he stressed.

Delivering his ruling on the admissibility of the document, presiding Judge, Justice Gabriel Kolawole said ‘‘In view of the objection raised by the second and third defence Counsel, and relying on sections 28 and 29 o*f the Evidence Act, we will take a mini procedure, a trial within trial."

The matter was adjourned to 21st of June, 2016 for the ordered mini procedure.
It would be recalled that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission dragged Nigeria’s former head of Service, Mr. Stephen Oronsaye and four others before Justice Gabriel Kolawole of a Federal High Court, Abuja over an amended 35-count charge bordering on alleged corruption.

Others charged by the Commission are: Cluster Logistics Limited, Kangolo Dynamic Cleaning Limited, and Drew Investment & Construction Company Limited. Osarenkhoe Afe is the managing director of Fredrick Hamilton Global Services Limited.


Meanwhile, many well-meaning Nigerians have cautioned the Federal Government over what they described as the persecution of Nigeria’s former Head of Service by the EFCC, further describing it as a show of ingratitude to one who introduced reforms to the country’s Civil Service and exposed corruption in the system.

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