Justice Okon Abang of a Federal High Court, Abuja, has adjourned the alleged N3.9 billion fraud case involving a former Chief of Defence Staff, Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh to February 26, 2019, to enable parties know how to proceed with regards to the defence of Iyalikam Nigeria Limited, a company with whom he was standing trial.
Badeh who was killed on December 18, 2018 by yet to be identified gunmen along the Keffi-Abuja Road, on his way from his farm in Nasarawa State was expected to open his defence on January 16, 2019. The EFCC had closed its case against him and the company, on October 23, 2018 after calling 21 witnesses.
At the resumed sitting on January 16, 2019, Badeh’s counsel, Akin Olujimi, SAN, informed the Court of the death of his client. Describing his murder as a “shock”, Olujimi said that the “unfortunate incident” deprived Badeh “the opportunity to let the world know that he did not commit the offence with which he was charged”.
“When a defendant to a crime has passed on, the litigation against him must terminate,” he said, further stressing that his late client would have been able to disprove the allegations against him.
He thereafter, applied for an adjournment “pending the burial” of the deceased, and informed the Court that “the prosecution and defence teams are making arrangements to meet, regarding how to proceed with the matter”.
Counsel for the company, S.T. Ologunorisa, SAN, aligned himself with the submission of Olujimi, and further appealed that the matter be adjourned to a later date, “as a mark of honour for the late Badeh”.
“We will also want the Court to vacate the other dates earlier scheduled for hearing,” he added.
Prosecuting counsel, O. A. Atolagbe, also expressed his condolence. According to him, though the demise of the first defendant was public knowledge, the Court being “a Court of Record”, it was essential for the defence to furnish it with a death certificate.
He further urged the court to discountenance the submission of Olujimi in respect of the first defendant’s ability to disprove the allegations against him, stating that the submission was “unnecessary” given the circumstances.
While not raising any objection to the application for adjournment, Atolagbe confirmed that moves had been made towards setting up a meeting between both parties to decide in which direction the case will go.
He however said that it was impractical to hinge the next adjournment on Badeh’s burial, noting that Olujimi had not indicated when the burial was likely to take place.
“We urge the Court to adjourn to a more practical date,” he added.
Arguing against the need for a death certificate, Olujimi, citing the case of Osafile v. Odi (1990) 2 NLWR (Pt.137), however, submitted that “in such a matter of public knowledge, which the Court itself as a member of a community is aware of, there is no need for any evidence, the court will simply take judicial notice of the matter”.
After the arguments, Justice Abang held that: “In this instance, it is not necessary for the counsel to the first defendant to tender a death certificate because the death of the first defendant is public knowledge and the court is aware.
“It is not in dispute that the first defendant is dead. He was humble and peaceful. He would always stand, waiting in the dock, until the Court would order him to sit. He attended proceedings at all times and always present in time.
“He never asked for frivolous applications or wasted the Court’s time, complying at all times with the Court’s rules. May his soul rest in peace”.