Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) on Monday lost in its quest to have the criminal case against the Lagos State House of Assembly Speaker, Adeyemi Ikuforiji, transferred from the current judge handling it to another judge of the Federal High Court.
EFCC had filed the criminal charge against Ikuforiji and his Personal Assistant, Oyebode Atoyebi, before Justice Okechuwku Okeke, alleging that the duo committed economic crime and laundered various sums of money above the amount permitted by law.
When the matter came up on Monday, EFCC’s lawyer, Godwin Obla, drew the attention of the judge to a letter he wrote to the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Ibrahim, asking that the matter be taken away from Justice Okeke.
In view of the letter, Obla urged the court to stay proceedings and hand over the case file to the CJ for onward re-assignment of the matter to another judge.
In the letter, Obla said in view of the fact that Justice Okeke would be bowing out of service in May, it would be practically impossible for him to conclude the case before May, and that another judge with longer tenure of office should be allowed to handle it.
Obla drew the attention of the CJ to the case of former Intercontinental Bank Managing Director, Erastus Akingbola, before a Lagos High Court, which had to start again from the beginning because the former judge handling it, Justice Abiru, was elevated to the Appeal Court.
He stated in the letter: “It is my considered opinion that considering the intricacies and complexities associated with this matter and having regard to the number of witnesses not yet called, it will be practically impossible for the current presiding judge to conclude this case before bowing out of service in the next few months.
“Even assuming that the prosecution is able to close its case before the pressing judge bows out, the defence will have to open its case by calling as many witnesses as it intends to, with the said witnesses also having to go through examinations-in-chief, cross-examinations and possible re-examinations.
“At the conclusion of all examinations, cross-examinations and re-examinations of the various witnesses of both the prosecution and defence, the prosecution by practice will have 30 days to file its final address, after which the defence will be given another 30 days to file its reply and the prosecution will have yet another 15 days to file its reply on points of law.
“It is in order to obviate the need for this matter to start de novo (afresh) arising from the likely non-conclusion of this case before the current judge takes his exit that this request is presented,” Obla stated.
But, Justice Okeke, in his ruling, said the mere writing of the letter does not amount to stay of proceedings, until the CJ directs otherwise.