By ABDULWAHAB ABDULAH
Fred Ajudua, lawyer and socialite, accused by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, of defrauding two Dutch businessmen, Remy Cima and Pierre Vijgen, of $1.6 million has asked the trial judge, Justice Joseph Oyewole, to disqualify himself from the case.
Ajudua was charged on May 30, 2003 before an Ikeja High Court for the offence of obtaining money under false pretence from Remy Luigi Cima alongside one Charles Orie by the anti-graft commission.
After Oyewole had denied him bail, he ordered a day-to-day trial of the case.
In his ruling on the bail application, the judge said the court had the discretion to grant bail which must be exercised judicially and judiciously.
He held that Ajudua was granted permission to travel to India for medical treatment in 2005 but failed to appear thereafter, adding that no reference was made by Ajudua’s counsel on the exact date he left the country, and that his international passport was also not tendered before the court.
On the medical report tendered by the accused, Oyewole admitted that it indicated he was suffering from complicated ailments, but appeared that Ajudua was physically fit for the court’s proceedings, and therefore ordered for day to day trial.
The judge held, “In totality, therefore, I am not persuaded that the accused will make himself available for trial if bail is granted.”
The EFCC counsel, Mr. Wemimo Ogunde, SAN, has opposed to the motion, urging the court to grant him time to respond to the averment made by Ajudua and also show the court while it must reject the prayers to disqualify itself.
Not comfortable with the court’s ruling however, the accused counsel, Allens Agbaka, asked for an adjournment of proceedings pending the decision of Lagos State Chief Judge, Ayodele Philips, on Ajudua’s petition seeking the transfer of his case from the trial judge.
Urging the Chief Judge to exercise her powers under section 56 (1) & (2) of the High Court Law of Lagos State to transfer the case from the trial judge, the accused said there were likelihood of the breach of his rights to fair hearing as guaranteed under section 36 of the Constitution.
One of the grounds of his complaint was that the trial judge was biased when he remarked that he will “tampering with the prosecution witnesses” if granted bail.
He also hinged his prayers on a petition allegedly written by a retired major general (names withheld) which is being investigated by the EFCC to the effect that he falsely obtained millions of dollars from the retired general using the name of the trial judge to fraudulently obtain the said money.
The accused submitted that having named the judge in the petition, “His Lordship is likely going to be listed as one of the witnesses”, which he argued will jeopardize his case.