Ikeja – The Ikeja Special Offences Court on Tuesday adjourned the trial of a Federal High Court judge, Mohammed Yunusa, charged with corruption, until March 9.
The court took the decision following a request by the defence for an adjournment to reply an affidavit by the prosecution.
Yunusa’s lawyer, Mr Robert Clarke (SAN), had asked the court for an adjournment to respond to a counter-affidavit filed by Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Clarke in his submission said “The prosecution yesterday (Monday) served us with a so- called counter-affidavit and written address, we have not had the opportunity to respond.
“On the face of what was served on us, we do not see the necessity for a counter-affidavit since we did not file an affidavit.
“In the circumstance, we need time to give a reply to close all facts before Your lordship.
“We seek to ask for an adjournment which has been foisted on us by the prosecution in order to close all facts placed before us by the prosecution.”
Mr John Odubela (SAN), defence counsel for Esther Agbo, Yunusa’s co-defendant, agreed with Clarke’s request for an adjournment.
“We have filed a notice of preliminary objection dated Feb. 13 and we served on the prosecution on Feb. 14 and the prosecution served us a response yesterday at 5.08p.m.
“We were able to file our reply on points of law this morning; though we are ready, it is still subject to the first defendant’s preliminary objection.
“We do not have an objection to the adjournment because out of the five-count charge the first defendant has four-counts,” he said.
Mr Wahab Shittu, the EFCC counsel, however, objected to the requests by the defence, noting that the anti-graft agency was ready to proceed with the trial.
“Your lordship adjourned till today for hearing as arraignment has been done and in adjourning Your lordship made specific orders for both the prosecution and defence to do.
“We have filed all our processes as ordered by Your lordship and there are two witnesses in court which are ready to proceed.
“We have also filed all the necessary documents to ensure that this trial goes on its merits,” Shittu said.
Acceding to the defence counsel’s requests, Justice Sherifat Solebo said: “This case is adjourned till March 9 at 9.30a.m. to take all the arguments on the two pending preliminary objections.”
Earlier, Shittu had in an application dated Feb. 9, sought for the change of EFCC prosecuting counsel from Mr A.B.C Ozioko to himself.
The defence in an objection, noted that the application did not have a counsel’s seal which was not in accordance with the Legal Practitioners Rules of Professional Conduct.
Shittu, however, told the court that the payment for the seal had been done on May 24, 2017 but the necessary seal had yet to be issued by the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Solebo then ruled in favour of EFCC.
“It is unfair to visit the sin of the NBA on the counsel,” she said.
EFCC had arraigned Yunusa, a judge of Lagos Division of Federal High Court, alongside Esther Agbo, a staff member of the law chambers of Mr Rickey Tarfa (SAN), on Jan. 17.
Yunusa was charged on four counts of attempted perversion of the course of justice and corruption by a public official, while Agbo was charged with offering gratification to a public official.
They, however, denied the charges.
According to Mr A.B.C Ozioko, the then EFCC prosecutor, Yunusa had constant and confidential communications with Tarfa, who was handling three lawsuits marked FHC/L/CS/714/2015, FHC/L/CS/715/2015 and FHC/L/CS/716/2015 before him.
The prosecution alleged that Yunusa collected N1.5 million bribe from Tarfa for the purpose of giving favourable rulings and judgments in the cases.
The judge is also being accused of receiving N750, 000 from Mr Joseph Nwobike (SAN), between March 2015 and September, 2015, to get “favourable” judgment in cases.
The EFCC alleged that Agbo, the second defendant who is an employee of Rickey Tarfa and Co., on May 14, 2015 paid the N1.5 million allegedly from Tarfa into Yunusa’s UBA account number 1005055617.
The prosecutor said the offences violated Sections 64(1)(a) and 97(3) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2011. (NAN)