Absence of defence counsel stalls ex-Gov. Aliyu’s N3bn fraud trial

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Babangida-Aliyu
Babangida-Aliyu

The absence of a defence counsel on Monday stalled the commencement of the trial of a former Niger State governor, Babangida Aliyu, before Justice Aliyu Maiyaki of the Niger State High Court, Minna.

Aliyu is standing trial along with his then Chief of Staff, Umar Nasko, and Tanko Beji, a former deputy chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for a seven-count charge of fraud to the tune of N3billion.

Mamman Osuman, SAN, counsel to Nasko, was absent in court, but instead, sent Sam Adda, SAN, who tendered a letter dated September 6, 2017 informing the court, that Osuman was in the United Kingdom for medicals.

“He has travelled for medical check-up and is seeking for an adjournment to October 18, 2017 to enable him come back and handle the matter personally,” he said.

Counsel for Aliyu and Beji, Olajide Ayodele, SAN and Ibrahim Isiyaku, SAN, respectively, did not oppose to the application.

The application for adjournment was vehemently opposed by counsel to the EFCC, Chile Chime, who opined that the move was deliberate and aimed at delaying the trial, and to frustrate efforts for a speedy trial.

“The issue of counsel handling a matter personally might have existed in the past, but the practice has changed,” he argued, noting that the defence team often appeared as a team.

He further argued that in the absence of the lead counsel, Osuman, there ought to be someone to stand in for him, and noted that “the letter credited to Osuman, was even signed by Sam Adda”.

“So why can’t he go ahead with the matter?” Chime queried, and wondered what would happen if Osuman’s treatment in the UK went on beyond the expected time.

“Even when our president travelled out, he handed over to the vice president,” he added, and urged the court to “refuse the application”.

Justice Maiyaki, however, noted that the application was predicated on health grounds, and “there is no law that forbids the court’s discretion on matters like this.”

The trial judge, thereafter, adjourned to October 30 to November 3, 2017.

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