The trial of John Abebe, younger brother of former first lady, late Mrs Stella Obasanjo, got stalled at the Special Offences section of Lagos High Court, Ikeja due to unavailability of documents from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC).
Abebe was alleged to have on June 22, 2010, forged portions of a letter belonging to BP Exploration Nigeria Ltd dated November 30, 1995, for his personal benefits.
Mr. Christopher Ikem, a staff of CAC and the second defence witness (DW2), informed the court that the CAC was still in the process of collating the documents necessary for Abebe’s defence. He noted that some of the documents dated as far back as 1992.
Mr Uche Nwokedi (SAN), the defence counsel, requested an adjournment of the suit to enable the subpoenaed CAC official bring the necessary documents to court.
Reacting, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, the lead prosecuting counsel for the EFCC, however, expressed displeasure over the defence counsel’s request for an adjournment.
“My lord, the learned SAN can tender the documents himself; we should not use DW2 as a skyscraper of adjournments. The documents about to be tendered have no relation to the charge. It is alleged that the defendant forged a document that was presented during proceedings at the Federal High Court.
“I humbly and passionately pray my lord that proceedings should not be stalled as justice is not for the defendant alone,” Oyedepo said.
Responding Nwokedi said: “We issued these subpoena to the witnesses in May and this case was under constant review and we owe it to provide the best defence.
“If my learned friend can state here that he has not sought an adjournment in this case, I will let it be. We were meant to take two witnesses today but unfortunately, the second witness is not well,”
Obliging Nwokedi’s request, Justice Mojisola Dada adjourned the case until July 10 and 11 for the continuation of trial.
In a no-case submission which relied on Section 239(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2011, Nwokedi had urged the court to dismiss the EFCC’s case against Abebe.
In the no-case submission which was dismissed by Justice Dada on March, 24, Nwokedi noted that the procurement of the allegedly forged letter by the prosecution was illegal.
He said it contravenes the provisions of Sections 37 and 38 of the National Archives Act and as a result, the document (letter) was legally inadmissible to prove the charge against Abebe.
He noted that the document, which was prepared by BP Exploration Nigeria Ltd and Inducon Nigeria Ltd (both Nigerian companies) were produced from a privately-managed archive in London known as Iron Mountain.
Abebe opened his defence on July 13 with Mrs Roseline Ovesuor, Deputy Director of the National Archives giving evidence and the first defence witness (DW1).
Reiterating the claim of the defence, Ovesuor stated in her evidence that by virtue provisions of Sections 37 and 38 of the National Archives Act, it was an offence for a Nigerian company to take its records outside Nigeria.