By Aluta News
Jan. 12, 2024
Justice Abubakar Kutigi of a Federal Capital Territory High Court has fixed Feb.29 for ruling in the no -case submission filed by former Justice Minister Mohammed Adoke, SAN and six others.
Adoke is charged along with Aliyu Abubakar; Rasky Gbinigie; Malabu Oil and Gas Limited; Nigeria Agip Exploration Limited; Shell Nigeria Extra Deep Limited and Shell Nigeria Exploration Production Company Limited over the controversial Oil Prospecting License (OPL) 245, otherwise known as Malabu Oil scam
Justice Kutigi while ruling in an oral application for adjournment by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in the trial, held that the court is a temple of justice.
He declared that the court could not be at the whims of anybody or institution, even asserting that lawyers, as ministers in the temple of justice, have roles to play in strengthening the capacity of the court.
Adoke, who served as AGF and Minister of Justice under the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan, was dragged before the court by EFCC in the suit, marked FCT/HC/CR/151/2020, on an amended 40-count charge bordering on the controversial Malabu Oil scam.
Earlier, the prosecution counsel Sylvanus Tahir SAN, told the court that though the business of the day was adoption of written addresses in the no-case submission made by the defendants, he had the mandate of the EFCC Chairman to seek a short adjournment.
Tahir informed the court that the chairman instructed him on Thursday to appear in court in the case, adding that at the highest level, government was looking at the case.
He added that , the case was of particular interest to government as it concerned the controversial OPL 245 and wanted to look at it in the interest of all.
He further said that the complainant in the case is the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that the case was initiated before the current administration came onboard.
EFCC’s oral application for a short adjournment was vehemently opposed by all the defendants, counsel.
They submitted that it was unfair for the prosecution to make such application when issues had been joined in the no-case submission by their respective clients.
Chief Kanu Agabi SAN, Adoke’s counsel said the former AGF was brought to court under suspension and could not practise as a lawyer in the almost four years the case had been in court.
Wole Olanipekun SAN, counsel for Abubakar, asserted that the court cannot adjourn because EFCC chairman wanted an adjournment.
He added that the Attorney-General of the Federation upon assumption of office has the power to review the case.
While counsels for other defendants, including Adeyemi Sekoni Lawal; Isiaka Kadiri; Joe Kyari Gadzama SAN; O Opasanya SAN, in that order, aligned their submissions with those of Agabi and Olanipekun.
They submitted that EFCC had admitted in its written address that it had no sufficient evidences against the defendants to sustain the case.
They all, therefore, urged the court to dismiss the prosecution’s oral application.
Ruling on the application, Justice Kutigi held that granting an adjournment is at the discretion of the court, which must be exercised judiciously and judicially.
The judge said while the charge was filed in 2020, the prosecution called its witnesses and then closed its case, paving the way for the defendants to open their defence but instead they chose to make a no-case submission.
He held that having made the submission and filed their addresses, which the prosecution equally replied to, issues had been joined.
The judge noted that between the time EFCC closed its case and now, the commission has ample time to review the case and take a decision.
He added that the undefined intervention of the agency’s chairman is not enough reason for the court to grant the application for short adjournment.
Justice Kutigi held that EFCC was given all the time to conduct the case the way it wanted, adding that there was no basis for the application.
He held that the application failed and ordered parties to adopt their respective written address on the no-case submission, which they did and urged the court to discharge and acquit the defendants.