The re-arraignment of Sule Lamido, a former governor of Jigawa State, and others by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, before Justice Babatunde O. Quadri of the Federal High Court, Maitama, Abuja was on April 26, 2017 stalled with fresh motions by Lamido’s counsel, Joe Agi, SAN, who is seeking the return of the case to the former trial judge, Justice Adeniyi Ademola.
The prosecution had after the arraignment of Lamido alongside his sons: Aminu Sule Lamido; Mustapha Sule Lamido; Aminu Wada Abubakar and their companies, Bamaina Holdings Limited and Speeds International Limited, in 2015, called 18 witnesses in support of its claim against the defendants.
However, further hearing on the case was stalled following the suspension of t Justice Ademola, by the National Judicial Council, NJC, for alleged breach of professional ethics.
Consequently, the case was reassigned to Justice Quadri and trial had to start de novo.
However, the re-arraignment of the defendants slated for Tuesday, April 11, 2017, could not go on as planned following an application by Agi urging the Chief Judge of Nigeria, CJN, to return the case to Justice Ademola following his acquittal by Justice Jude Okeke on the corruption charges preferred against him by the federal government.
Agi argued that it was in the interest of justice and fair hearing to hear his application, which was brought pursuant to Section 98 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
“My Lord, justice and fair hearing, according to our constitution includes the determination of rights within a reasonable time. The matter commenced two years ago, in 2015. The prosecution had already called 18 witnesses. It would be most unfair and bring undue hardship to the defendants for the matter to begin again and take another two years. Therefore, we humbly apply that your Lordship exercise your power by referring the matter back to the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, for reassignment to Honourable Justice Ademola for a conclusion of hearing”, Agi pleaded.
At this point, Justice Quadri confirmed the receipt of a copy of the letter addressed to the CJN applying for reassignment of the case and showed same to the prosecution.
M.S. Abubakar, counsel to EFCC, opposed the application arguing that the defense ambushed them by not putting them on notice, after applying to the CJN.
Both counsels subsequently agreed to return on Wednesday, April 26, 2017, for further mention pending further directive from the CJN.
At resumed hearing, Agi notified the court of his intention to file another motion challenging the power of the CJN to transfer the matter to Justice Quadri for hearing.
Citing Section 98 of the ACJA 2015, Agi argued that, “The CJN does not have the power to transfer a criminal matter in which witnesses have already been called. At the time I wrote to the CJN, I had not taken consideration of this provision. This is no longer an administrative matter. The law says he cannot do what he has done in this case and it is my duty to bring this to the notice of the court.”
Responding, Abubakar submitted that the motion made does not qualify as a legal submission. He stated that the seal on the document expired on March 31, 2017, thereby rendering the document invalid.
He urged the court to proceed with the arraignment pending further directives by the CJN.
Justice Quadri, thereafter, adjourned to Wednesday, May 3, 2017, for hearing on the application.