Judge’s elevation stalls Ladoja’s trial for alleged N4.7bn fraud

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The trial of a former Oyo State governor, Rashidi Ladoja, for an alleged fraud of N4.7bn was stalled on Monday due to the absence of the trial judge, Justice Mohammed Idris.

The judge was among the 12 high court judges promoted last week to the Court of Appeal.

 Though both the prosecutor and the defence lawyers came to court for the scheduled case on Monday, Ladoja and his co-defendant, Waheed Akanbi, who usually travel from Ibadan to Lagos to attend their trial before the Federal High Court in Lagos, did not show up, ostensibly, having heard in the news about the judge’s elevation to the Court of Appeal.
The absence of the defendants from court reflected the uncertainty now hanging over the fate of the case, which has been in court for 10 years.

In the past, once a judge handling a case is elevated to the Court of Appeal, the case would automatically be transferred to another judge to start afresh.

But the Administration of Criminal Justice Act passed in 2015 seems to have changed that trend, with its Section 396 (7), stating that an elevated judge would return to conclude all his partly-heard cases.

Ladoja and Akanbi were first arraigned in 2008 before Justice A.R. Mohammed but they challenged the validity of the charges all the way to the Supreme Court over a period of seven years before the apex court in 2015 dismissed their appeal and sent them back to the high court to face their trial.

They were subsequently re-arraigned on December 14, 2016 before Justice Mohammed Idris. The case has since made a fair progress and the prosecution has called no fewer than four witnesses.

The prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Mr. Olabisi Oluwafemi, said rather than allow the case to start afresh, the prosecution would be invoking the provisions of the ACJA for Justice Idris to return from the Court of Appeal to conclude the case.

Oluwafemi said the prosecution plans to write to the President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, to release Justice Idris to conclude the case.

 Meanwhile, the court registrar has adjourned the case till October 16, 2018, after the court’s annual long vacation which commences next month.

 

Apart from Ladoja’s case, other high-profile criminal cases being handled by Justice Idris before his elevation last week included the 11-year-old case of a former governor of Abia State, Orji Kalu, who was charged with an alleged fraud of N2.9bn.

The prosecution has closed its case and the defence team was in the process of filing a no-case submission.

Other high-profile personalities being tried before the judge were a former Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshall Adesola Amosu (retd.), who was charged with an alleged fraud of N22.8bn; a former Special Assistant to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan on Domestic Affairs, Waripamo-Owei Dudafa, who was accused of laundering N5.1bn; and the senator representing Delta North in the National Assembly, Peter Nwaoboshi, who was arraigned in April for an alleged fraud of N322m.

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