A high court of the Federal Capital Territory on Tuesday chided the Nigerian government for failing to furnish the court with requisite details for continuation of the trial of a senator, Dino Melaye.
Mr Melaye who represents Kogi West Senatorial District is facing trial for allegedly providing false information to the public regarding an assassination attempt against him.
He was arraigned by the federal government through the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation.The matter was slated to continue on Tuesday with the prosecution presenting its witnesses.
At the start of the trial, a witness Edward Onoja, who works with the Kogi State Government was presented by the prosecution and he began to testify on the reason for his presence in court.
Shortly after Mr Edward started, the defence lawyer, Oluwasegun Jolaawo, drew the attention of the court to the fact that Mr Onoja’s details were not contained in the documents in his possession.
Interruption by prosecution
While Mr Jolaawo was talking, the lawyer who represented the prosecution, Chika Nnanna, interjected, in an attempt to stop the defence from proceeding with his line of objection
“My Lord, I already understand the crux of the objection raised by the defence,” Ms Nnanna said.
But the court overruled her and urged the defence to continue with his objection. The judge, Olasumbo Goodluck, also noted that the court was not served with copies of the witness’ details for the day’s hearing.
“It does appear as if the court is also not served with the copy,” Mrs Olasumbo said.
In a reaction, Ms Nnanna apologised for the failure of the prosecution to file the processes, both to the court and the defence counsel.
She explained that she was not the lawyer in charge of the matter and requested for five minutes break to file the documents.
In a further response, Mr Jolaawo cited sections of the constitution to buttress the fact that a five minutes stand down, will be insufficient to achieve the required action from the prosecution.
“My Lord this is a court of record. The proper thing that should be done is that…”
While Mr Jolaawo was talking, Ms Nnanna again interjected, asking the lawyer to watch his words because “she knows her job.”
“I take exception to that, please. I know my job,” Ms Nnanna again retorted. Her action created a general reaction, with people in the court grumbling in obvious complaint about the lawyer’s attitude in court.
Again, the judge stopped Ms Nnanna and asked the defence to proceed with his address.
“My Lord, I was saying that this is a court of record. The proper thing to be done is for the prosecution to file copies of their processes to the court and the defence counsel.
“The provision of the law is settled. According to section 379 of the ACJA , the defence as well as the court should be furnished with the details of the witnesses intended to be presented. And that cannot be done in five minutes, with all due respect, my Lord. The prosecution knows what to do, my Lord.”
After Mr Jolaawo’s address, Ms Nnanna tried again to defend her earlier submission, but failed.
“My Lord, he cannot speak for me. He just wants an adjournment…”
Nodding her head in a manner to suggest contempt for the lawyer’s behaviour, Mrs Goodluck asked Ms Nnanna to state what the law says regarding the instant controversy.
“What does the law say? Does it say that you should be given five or ten minutes to file your processes?”
Ms Nnanna later requested for an adjournment after observing that the court was not convinced about her explanation.
Court Frowns At prosecution
In a short ruling, Ms Goodluck said the court, “frowns very seriously,” at the failure of the prosecution to provide the details about its witnesses, as expected.
“When you are taking a date for adjournment, it is expected that you would have filed your processes. It is of no moment that you are not the one handling this case.
“Ordinarily this court does not grant adjournment for parties to go and file their process. The court will adjourn the matter for trial,” said Mrs Goodluck who added that the court expects the prosecution to avoid all actions that will compel another adjournment, based on an interlocutory application.
Mrs Goodluck added that the law expects the case to be heard on a daily basis and adjournment cannot be granted at will.
The court adjourned the matter to December 5 and 13.