CHIBUOGWU NDIDI, ABUJA
A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Friday, has slated November 8, for ruling in an application for stay of proceeding filed by former Adamawa State Governor, Admiral Murtala Nyako (rtd) and others in their ongoing money laundering trial.
The trial judge, Justice Okon Abang fixed the date after counsel for the 3rd and 9th defendants had concluded his argument on points of law as well as that of the 5th defendant.
Though transferred to Asaba Division, Justice Abang has continued to conduct the trial based on a fiat issued to him by the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court.
In a bench ruling on Friday, the judge explained that ordinarily, he would have delivered ruling on the application within three days but cited “heavy workload”.
He disclosed that he has other serious cases at Warri Division, which requires judicial time, and has been shuttling from Asaba Division to Abuja to conduct trials too.
In order to have time to attend to other cases pending before him in Asaba Division, the judge adjourned to November 8, for ruling on the application for stay.
Justice Abang stated that if the application for stay succeeds, the reliefs of the defendants will be granted and that the court will proceed to make consequential orders as contained in the main reliefs.
However, the court declared that should the application for stay of proceeding fail, the defendants are ordered to open their defence on that day.
Moving the application, Kanu Agabi SAN, counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants, said the application basically was for the court to stay proceeding pending an appeal at the appellate court.
The defendants are challenging the dismissal of their no-case-submission, on July 19, 2021, by Justice Abang.
Adopting his processes, Agabi attacked the prosecution’s reliance on section 306 of Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015, to oppose his application for stay.
“It is our humble submission that the position of the prosecution in opposing our application does not represent correct position of the law.
He insisted that the court has jurisdiction and inherent powers to adjudicate on any motion before it.
Agabi said section 306 of ACJA, being relied upon by the prosecution was an issue in Onnoghen versus FRN, in 2019, at the Court of Appeal.
Granting of stay of proceeding, Agabi posited, “depends on the law, facts and on the interest of justice.
“Application for a stay of proceeding, is in the interim, and at the discretion of the court, which must be exercised judicially and judiciously.
“Section 306 was an issue on the trial of Bukola Saraki, when the Supreme Court ordered for a stay in his criminal trial. It was also considered by the Court of Appeal, when it ordered for a stay in Justice Walter Onnoghen’s trial at the Code of Conduct Tribunal, Nyako’s lawyer argued.
He therefore urged the court to grant his application for stay in the interest of justice.
Similarly, A.O Dada argued his first motion on behalf of the 3rd defendant and urged the court to grant the application for stay.
“This application is meant for your Lordship to stay proceeding pending when an appeal is entertained.
It was filed in accordance with Order 4 rule 10 of Court of Appeal Rules, Dada said, arguing that the case of Olisa Metuh, cited by the prosecution, was distinguishable from the facts of the instant case.
“Your lordship is aware that this matter started since 2015, and the prosecution took six years to call witnesses and present its case.
“If the prosecution took six years to open and argue its case, the 3rd defendant is asking just for a while, say 6 months for the application to stay to be heard at the Court of Appeal.
“If at the end of the day, the application is dismissed at the appellate court, parties are here to continue the matter before this court.
“With due respect to my Lord, if the Court of Appeal disagrees with the I instant court, the matter ends
“I pray the court to exercise its discretion in favour of the applicant/defendant” Dada stated while adopting his oral submission.
Dada who also argued and moved application of the 9th defendant, adopted the 3rd defendant’s oral argument as argument for the 9th defendant.
For the 5th defendant, Olumide Olujimi also prayed the court to stay proceeding pending the determination of an appeal marked CA/ABJ/CR/596/2021 between Blue Opal Ltd versus FRN, at the Court of Appeal.
In response to counsel to the defendants’ application for stay of proceeding, Sylvanus Tahir, the prosecution counsel vehemently opposed the application, describing it as “incompetent and abuse of court process”.