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Court rejects Al-Mustapha’s plea

By Abdulwahab   Abdulah
LAGOS—Justice Mufutau Olokoba of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja, yesterday rejected the application to forcefully close the evidence of a prosecution witness, CP Felix Ogboadu, by the defence counsel in the  trial of Major Hamza Al-Mustapha, former Chief  Security Officer to the late General Sani Abacha and three others, over the attempted murder of  Mr. Alex Ibru, The Guardian publisher, in 1996.

Joined as defendants in the case are former Lagos police boss, Mr James Danbaba; ex-Zamfara military administrator, Colonel Jubrin Bala Yakubu and CSP Rabo Lawal.

At the resumed hearing of the case, the defence lawyers urged the court to expunge the  evidence presented to the court by Ogboadu, a prosecution witness, because of his failure to appear in court for two days running.

The judge rejected the application of the defence counsel, arguing that it will be unfair on the part of justice and equity.
Olokooba, in his short ruling to the application, said the time to grant such prayer by the court is not now, adding that by the next adjournment if the prosecution is still found wanting, then their prayers would be reasonable.

“For now, I don’t see myself granting the prayers of the defence, though I am not oblivious of the conduct of the prosecution towards this case but the facts for granting the defence prayers on closing the evidence of the state’s witness is just maturing,” the judge said.

The lawyer to Al-Mustapha, Mr. Olalekan Ojo, had applied that the court close the evidence of the ninth prosecution witness or stop his evidence, adding that if need be, the state will formally apply before the court to bring him back to the witness box.

Their applications arose from the absence of the witness at the proceeding and a letter from the office of the Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP), Lagos state informing the court and parties involved that the witness is away on an official assignment and would also be in an overseas trip to keep a medical appointment by mid November.

The lawyers urged the court to discountenance the application because there was not enough evidence to show that the witness has an overseas medical appointment.“My lord there is nobody from the DPP’s office to make the necessary application for adjournment in this case and there is nothing in this letter to show that the prosecution is engaged in other courts. “What they have done is to adjourn this case from their chambers.

This action bothers on executive rascality and arrogance. They are treating this court with disdain and we are vehemently opposing this chamber adjournment.” Olalekan Ojo said.Arguing further, he said, at no stage in the proceeding should the court allow any of the party to dictate the pace.“It is very easy and I want the court to infer from the evidence in support of the application that the witness and prosecution are not being sincere to the court but this court must exhibit courage and fearlessness towards ensuring that every party before it is given his due.

Their tactics is to delay and by so doing inflicting pains on the accused persons who have been in custody for over 10 years.”Counsels to the first and third defendants, James Danbaba and Jubrin Bala Yakubu respectively argued that granting an application is at the discretion of the court but the court must exercise the discretion judicially and judiciously.Further hearing in the case was adjourned till December 7, 2009.


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