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Court orders further addresses in Jonathan’s aide’s trial

A Federal High Court in Lagos on Friday called for further addresses from counsel in the trial of an ex-aide to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Waripamo Owei-Dudafa, charged with N1.6 billion money laundering.

Justice Mohammed Idris who now sits on appellate jurisdiction had on Feb. 27, reserved judgement in the case, after defence counsel adopted their final addresses.

Dudafa was charged by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) along with one Joseph Iwejuo, a staff of Heritage Bank, on a 23-count charge bordering on conspiracy, money laundering and concealment of proceeds of crime.

They, however, pleaded not guilty.

The EFCC arraigned them on counts of conspiracy to conceal proceeds of crime amounting to over N1.6 billion on June 11, 2013

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The prosecution closed its case on March 16, 2018, after calling seven witnesses and tendering several exhibits.

The defence initially filed and argued a no-case submission, and urged the court to dismiss the case on grounds that the prosecution failed to establish any case against them.

Idris had in a ruling delivered in August 2018, dismissed the no-case submission on  grounds that the defendants had some explanations to make on the exhibits and evidence adduced by prosecution.

Defence consequently called two witnesses so far and tendered exhibits.

It closed its case in November 2018 and final addresses were adopted on Feb. 27, while judgment was  reserved.

On Friday, Idris returned to the Federal High Court and announced that the 90-day period provided by law for judgment to be be delivered had expired.

“I have carried out a page-by-page examination of the entirety of the more than 600 pages of the statement of accounts that had been tendered in evidence in this case, and the judgment has been written.

“However, in line with decided cases, and acting ex abundanti cautella (with abundant caution), I deemed it being privileged to be in the Court of Appeal.

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“If any court of law raises an issue of law suo motu (on its own), and goes ahead to make pronoucement without affording counsel the opportunity of addressing it on those issues, the entire judgment will be set aside on appeal.

“This is in line with the requirement of Section 36 of the Constitution which guarantees the right to fair hearing.

“Reading through my judgment, I discovered that I might have raised issues of law, which I thought are important. I call the attention of counsel so that I am addressed briefly on it,” he said.

According to the judge, the question to be addressed is on the relationship, if any, between the provisions of Section 27(3) (c) of the EFCC Establishment Act and Sections 7(2), 16 and 17 of same Act, as they relate to the charge.

“This is the simple issue I want learned counsel to address the court on,” he said.

He, therefore, urged counsel to file addressees on June 3, after which it will hear submissions and further reserve judgment.