Court strikes out bid to frustrate $10,000 fraud trial 

CITIZENS COMPASS–  Justice Evelyn Anyadike of the Federal High Court, Ilorin, Kwara State,  on Wednesday, May 8, 2024, struck out the objection against the admissibility of the statements tendered by the Ilorin Zonal Command of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), in a $10,000 fraud trial of an Ilorin-based businessman, Chukudubem Ezenwa and one Adeleke Damilola.

Ezenwa and Damilola  are being prosecuted on a five-count charge bordering on cybercrime, retention of proceeds of crime, and fraud to the tune of $10,000.

They were first arraigned on September 23, 2021, before Justice Muhammed Sani of the same court, but the trial could not be consummated before Justice Sani’s redeployment to a different judicial division, necessitating a reassignment of the case to Justice Anyadike and a de novo of the trial.

Upon the re-arraignment of the defendants on Monday, May 6, 2024, , they pleaded “not guilty” to the charges preferred against them, thus setting the stage for a commencement of trial.

However, at the point of tendering in evidence the defendants’ statements by the prosecution, defence counsels, Osinachi Odom and Tochi Ekwedike, objected to their admissibility claiming that their clients wrote the statements under duress, intimidation, and harassment.

Although prosecution counsel, Innocent Mbachie urged the court to discountenance the objection because it was an attempt to frustrate and delay the trial, the judge ordered a trial-within-trial to establish the authenticity of the claims and adjourned the matter till Tuesday, May 7, 2024.

During proceedings on Tuesday, the prosecution presented to the court a video recording showing the first defendant volunteering his statement in the presence of his lawyer with neither intimidation nor harassment. The video also captured the statements of the first defendant which was counter-signed by his lawyer.

The defence team, however, claimed that the video recording was manipulated and did not capture the entire process that took place.

After listening from both sides, the judge adjourned ruling on the trial-within-trial till Wednesday, May 8, 2024.

Justice Anyadike in his ruling said: “I note that the video recording was played in the open court. I observed that counsel to the first defendant was present and he also counter-signed the statement. This honourable court did not see anything to suggest that the said statements were dictated to the first defendant to write.”

Dismissing the argument of the defence much further, the judge stated that “The court believed that the statements of the first and second defendants were obtained in line with Section 28 of the Evidence Act, 2011,” noting also that the evidence of the prosecution witnesses that the defendants volunteered their statements at the EFCC’s general office, which was in a good air-conditioned atmosphere was neither challenged nor contradicted by the defence.

On the claim that the second witness in the trial-within-trial (TW2), Olamide Sadiq sneaked into the cell under the cover of darkness and assaulted the first defendant, the judge stated that: “The defence counsel had every opportunity to confront the said witness when he was in the witness box, but decided to be quiet about the allegations, thereby made the submission immaterial and mere imagination.”

He admitted the documents as exhibits and adjourned the matter till July 15, 2024, for continuation of trial.

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