A Federal High Court Lagos will on Feb. 1 rule on whether a lawyer can be compelled to give evidence as prosecution witness through a summons in the ongoing trial of a former Governor of Abia, Orji Uzor Kalu.
Justice Mohammed Idris had reserved ruling and continuation of trial until Feb.1 and Feb. 2, after hearing arguments on the issue by counsel from both parties in the suit.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had on Oct. 31, 2016, slammed a 34-count charge bordering on fraud on Kalu and his former Commissioner for Finance, Ude Udeogo.
The accused were alleged to have committed the offences of fraud amounting to N3.2 billion between August 2001 and October 2005.
Also charged along with the accused is a company believed to be owned by Kalu — Slok Nigeria Ltd.
The accused had pleaded not guilty to the charges and were granted bails.
When trial resumed on Tuesday, a lawyer, Mr Kingsley Ekwem, informed the court that he was issued a witness summons to appear in court and give evidence in relation to a letter before it.
He said he had filed a motion in relation to the issue, challenging it, adding “I am only bound by the decision of the court.”
The lawyer said he received a summons to testify in relation to a letter before the court as regards the third accused — Slok Nigeria Ltd.
According to Ekwem, by the provisions of Section 192 of the Evidence Act 2011, no legal practitioner shall at anytime without the consent of his client be permitted to disclose any communication made to him or to state the content of any document which he has become acquainted with in the course of his employment.
He added that rule 19 (1) of the Rules of Professional Conduct for Legal Practitioners provides that except as provided under (3), all communications made by a client to his lawyer are privileged and such lawyer shall not use the secret of a client to his own privilege without the express consent of his client.
He argued that the application of the prosecution had sought his appearance in court to give evidence in respect of a letter which borders on professional communication between the third accused (Slok Nigeria Ltd) and his law firm.
The lawyer insisted that he must act in accordance with the provisions of the Evidence Act which is also applicable in Criminal Jurisprudence and submitted that he was not a “compellable” witness to come and tender a document, or give evidence in respect of a letter or issue which borders on professional communication between a lawyer and his client.
Ekwem, therefore, urged the court to uphold his argument and disregard the witness summons.
In his response, the prosecution counsel, Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), told the court that they had only written to the lawyer as the author of Exhibit H to come and testify if the said letter emanated from his chambers.
Jacobs argued that although a lawyer is precluded from disclosing a communication made to him by his client, the proviso to Section 192 (1) states that nothing shall prevent the disclosure of any fact suggestive of a crime.
He said the lawyer could not come under the provisions of Section 192 of the Act in advancing his argument, insisting that the lawyer is a “compellable witness” by the provisions of the law and urged the court to reject the argument of the lawyer.
On his part, counsel to the 1st accused, Mr Awa Kalu (SAN), noted that the provisions of Section 105 of the Evidence Act should be read together with Section 192 (1).
He argued that the document in question was obtained by a warrant and not an order of the court, adding that the prosecution cannot compel the witness to testify on things he ordinarily cannot do by his profession.
According to him, Section 192(1), (b) protect the disclosure of any fact obtained by a legal practitioner in the cause of his duty.
He urged the court to refuse the witness from being used to incriminate the first accused.
Other defence counsel also aligned themselves with his submissions.
After listening to all the counsel, Justice Idris adjourned the case until Feb. 1 and Feb. 2 for ruling and continuation of trial by noon.
NAN also reports that Kalu was alleged to have used his company to retain in the account of First Inland Bank, now FCMB, the sum of N200 million and that the money was part of funds illegally derived from the coffers of Abia Government.
The third accused (Slok Nigeria Ltd) and Emeka Abone, who is said to be at large, were also alleged to have retained in the company’s account the sum of N200 million on behalf of the first accused (Kalu).
In addition, the accused were alleged to have retained about N2.5 billion in different accounts, property of Abia Government.
Cumulatively, in all the counts, the accused were alleged to have diverted over N3.2 billion from the state’s treasury during Kalu’s tenure as governor.
The offences contravened the provisions of Sections 15(6), 16, and 21 of the Money Laundering (Prohibition) Act, 2005.
It also contravened the provisions of the Money Laundering Act of 1995 as amended by the amendment Act No.9 of 2002 and Section 477 of the Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federation, 1990.
Nigeria Police law obsolete, existing since 1943 – Senator
By Sarauniya G Usman, Abuja
Sen. Bala Na’Allah, the Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate on Monday said the nation was operating an obsolete Nigeria Police law, which had been in existence since 1943.
Na’Allah said this at a dialogue session with the National Assembly and Stakeholders on Police Reform and Police Bill organised by the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) in Abuja.
He said that was why he decided to sponsor the Police Reform Bill to make the police to be abreast with global best practice.
He said that the bill had passed second reading and was currently at the committee level and hopefully, public hearing would be conducted, then senate would consider the report within the next 30 days.
“The Nigeria police force is always critisised for not delivering on their responsibility; as a party that promised to leave Nigeria more secured than it met it, we decided to initiate this reform.
“We are not too comfortable with the situation where only the few get good security while the larger population is left at their own peril.
“So we decided that let us look at what happens around the world and check what is wrong with our own system.
“We discovered that the structure of the Nigerian police will never ever give it the kind of efficiency and effectiveness that it requires to be able to secure the population of Nigeria .’’
Na’Allah said that was the reason for the reforms to bring sufficient funding, and localise the operation of the police in such a manner that every community would be secured based on international best practice.
He said that the reform when passed would enhance the coverage of the police to the grassroots and enable them carry out their duties without boundaries.
“If you are travelling on the road, and you are robbed at the border between one police station and another, the police will proudly tell you that it is not under their jurisdiction.
“Yet we have one Nigerian police, so how can it be that when something is happening somebody will say it is not under our jurisdiction? That is not done anywhere in the civilised world,’’he said.
Na’Allah said that the police reform would ensure that every citizen in need of help got it and there would no more be the issue of bringing police report before treating gunshot patients.
He said that an elaborate provision was being made including constituting a police committee to receive complaints from the public and deal with it decisively.
Mr Lawal Abubakar, the Chairman House Committee on Police Affairs, said that the bill was going for public hearing, adding that it would change the narrative of the activities of the police.
Abubakar called for the input of citizens and the police to enrich the reform process and produce a bill that would stand the taste of time to face the contemporary Nigerian challenges.
The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, who was represented by CP Adat Ududo, CP Admin, Research and Planning Department commended National Assembly for the reform.
Idris advised that the issue of funding and manpower should be taken into consideration.
Mr Clement Nwankwo, the Executive Director, PLAC said that the event was organised to essentially to look at the bill of the reform of the police.
Nwankwo said that Nigeria was operating a 1943 law guiding the operations and the work of the police thus the reason for the review, especially in the light of new circumstances.
“Operating a Nigerian police with 1943 law is certainly unacceptable so we need to bring the legal framework guiding the creation operation and functions of the police in the modern times.
“This will be the first time that the 1943 law will be considered for a reform so certainly it is important for us to get the police law reformed.
“We hope that this is the huge opportunity everybody takes advantage of to ensure that we bring our law into conformity with modern times.’’
Nwankwo said that the law when passed, would create a well funded police that would be accountability to ensure that police respect human lives among other things.
2019 presidency: How we’ll stop APC from rigging election – Atiku’s camp
The Atiku Campaign Organisation has said that the People Democratic Party, PDP, Presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, will defeat President Muhammadu Bubari in the forthcoming general election with a wide margin to make it difficult for the ruling party to attempt rigging.
Spokesman of the campaign team, Segun Sowunmi also revealed on Monday in Abuja that the PDP campaign team will not exercise any form of fear going into the February presidential election.
Speaking at the public presentation of a book, “The man Atiku Abubakar, a square peg in a square hole; 100 reasons to vote,” Sowunmi said the insinuations in some quarters that the ruling party will rig the coming election should be dismissed.
“They say they will rig in 2019 but I tell them, it is only when we don’t beat them with a wide margin. We will beat them with a wide margin and make it impossible for them to rig in 2019.”
According to Sowunmi, Atiku will not spend one day as president wasting time, even as the PDP administration will not bring indolent with him when he emerges the next president.
He urged the Atiku support group to tak the message to the people across the country on the need to rescue the country from the hands of the current handlers.
Meanwhile, the PDP has, however, expressed willingness to sign Peace Accord between major political parties and major contenders as it is being canvassed by the European Union and other countries ahead of 2019 general elections.
Speaking on the need for the Peace Accord, PDP National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbodiyan, said, “We will support peace accord between major political parties and between major contenders. The People Democratic Party is open to that because we are a party of peace. We are a democratic party, who believe in the tenets of democracy, rule of law, justice, freedom, these are what make us a democratic party.
“If there is any group or a group of Nations that are canvassing that we should allow peace to reign during the election, surely the PDP will abide by that.”
He called on INEC to allow for a free, fair and credible election.
“I want to assure because Nigerians are sick and tired of the hunger, starvation, denial that the All Progressives Congress has imposed on Nigerians we plead with INEC to allow for a free, fair, credible and transparent elections in 2019.
“We also want them to take a lesson from our National Convention in Pirt Harcourt, which was adjudged as one of the best in the political history of our country. It was civil, it was clean, it was clear, it was transparent and it was generally acceptable by all the aspirants.
“So we look forward to INEC holding Nigeria elections that will generally accepted by the majority of parties and the majority of Nigerians.”
Sex-for-mark: OAU professor lands in prison
A Federal High Court in Osun has remanded an Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Lecturer, Prof. Richard Akindele, in Ilesa prison custody, for allegedly demanding sex for mark from his student.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Maureen Onyetenu ordered the remand on Monday pending the filing of his formal bail application.
Mr Kehinde Adedoye, the Independent Corrupt Practise and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) Prosecutor, had told the court that the defendant had on Sept. 16, 2017 unlawfully demanded sexual benefits for marks from Monica Osagie.
According to the prosecutor, the defendant is facing a four-count charge.
“The defendant corruptly asked for sexual benefits from Ms Monica Osagie on account of favour to be afterwards shown to her in the discharge of his official duties as a lecturer, to wit: altering her academic grades from fail to pass in the course, MBA 632 – Research Method,” he said.
The offences, he said, contravened Sections 8 (1) (A) (2) and 18 (d) of the corrupt practices and other related offenses Act 2000 and punishable under same sections.
NAN reports that the defendant, however, pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against him.
The Defense Counsel, Mr Fola Omotoso, thereafter, prayed the court to grant his client bail in the most liberal terms.
The ICPC counsel, however, opposed the bail application, noting that the defendant had refused to appear before the commission since he was granted administrative bail.
Onyetenu, therefore, ordered the defense counsel to file a formal bail application before the next date of adjournment.
The trial judge adjourned the matter till Nov. 27 for definite hearing and ordered the remand of the defendant.
NAN reports that the defendant is a lecturer in the Department of Management and Accounting of the university.
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