Read previous post on case here.
Trial was again stalled over pending applications relating to the plea of the 4th to 7th Defendants (companies charged with retaining proceeds of crime) in the criminal charge pending against former special assistant to the president during the last administration, Mr. Waripamo-Owei Emmanuel Dudafa and six others. Justice Kuewumi of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos had on the 25th of October 2017 adjourned the charge for the hearing of two applications, one filed by the 2nd defendant, Amajuoyi Azubuike Briggs and the other application filed by the companies. Both applications are essentially seeking orders of the court setting aside the conviction of the companies based on the plea of guilty entered on their behalf. Justice Kuewumi had adjourned the charge of till today to enable the prosecution file its response to both applications.
At the resumed hearing of the charge today, the lawyers to the 2nd defendant, Mr. Briggs and the companies informed the court that the prosecution just filed and served on them their response to the pending applications yesterday. They stated that they needed time to file a response on points of law and decried the delay caused by the prosecution who waited till a day before the charge was coming up to file its papers. Lawyers to the 1st and 2nd defendants informed the court that they haven’t even been served with the prosecution’s papers.
In response, Mr. Oyedepo appearing for the prosecution admitted that the prosecution’s response to both applications was just filed yesterday but argued that by virtue of the provisions of Section 396(2) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) and the directions of the Court of Appeal in the appeal arising from the charge (read about the decision of the Court of Appeal in the previous post), the court was not going to give a ruling on the applications until when judgment was being delivered. He therefore submitted that trial could proceed in the charge and asked the court to allow the prosecution’s first witness to continue with her testimony.
Mr. Asemudara appearing for the 2nd defendant in response argued that Section 396(2) of the ACJA only applies to applications dealing with the validity and competence of the charge. He argued that the applications that were pending did not deal with the validity of the charge but was challenging the conviction of the four companies charged along with the 2nd defendant. He submitted that the case of the 2nd defendant is intricately connected with that of the companies. He further argued that the directions of the Court of Appeal to reserve ruling until judgment was being delivered was in relation of the specific application it determined and not all applications.
Replying, Mr. Oyedepo urged the court to apply the decision of the Court of Appeal as that decision was made in respect of a similar application which was challenging the validity of the plea of guilty of the companies and was not challenging the validity or competence of the charge. The court in its ruling found that the failure of the prosecution to timeously file and serve its response to the pending applications had stalled further hearing in the charge. The court further held that the provisions of Section 396 (2) of the ACJA deals with only validity of a charge or information and that the provision was not to be taken as a blanket one to cover all applications filed in the charge. Finding it fair in the circumstances to adjourn the hearing of the pending applications, the charge was adjourned to the 12th of December 2017.
For ease of reference, Section 396 (2) of the ACJA provides:
“After the plea has been taken, the defendant may raise any objection to the validity of the charge or the information at any time before judgment provided that such objection shall only be considered along with the substantive issues and a ruling thereon made at the time of delivery of judgment.”