By; BALA B. BITRUS, Minna
The nearly three years running corruption trial of former governor Dr. Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Niger State and his former Chief of Staff at the Government House, Minna, Umar Nasko Minna and the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP) in the state, Tanko Beji may be terminated anytime soon as the petitioners in the case have withdrawn the case before the court.
At the resumed hearing on the matter before the High Court 4 in Minna, the trial Judge confirmed that the Counsels to the petitioners, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) and the Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice in Niger state have applied to the court to withdraw from further prosecution of the case.
The previous day, Counsel to the petitioners had sought to terminate the case orally without a formal application but the trial Judge insisted that a written application must be tendered at the court by the Counsel.
The Counsels therefore brought a written application to that effect but did not grace the sitting of the court as none of them appeared at the court.
However, Counsels to the three respondents, Ayodele Adedeji, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Ibrahim Ishaku, SAN and Mike Mamman also a SAN and Counsel to the third respondents, expressed reservations over the manner of the notice of withdrawal.
Counsel to the first respondent, Adedeji confirmed that a notice was served on him by Counsel to the prosecution stating that they were withdrawing their appearances from further standing for their clients on the matter and that they have informed the Attorney General of the state and the leadership of the EFCC.
He said he had no objection to the notice on motion however Ibrahim Ishaku, Counsel to the second respondent, Tanko Beji noted that though he was not objecting to the notice, he nonetheless noted that what he did not know was if the Attorney General and the EFCC were duly notified and they had consented.
He therefore registered his objection to the manner of the notice because there was nothing to suggest that either the EFCC or the Attorney General of Niger state were involved in this withdrawal.
The lead Counsel to the second respondent argued that there should have been notice to indicate that the withdrawal notice was with their consent and blessings of the two chief complainants in the case.
Counsel to the third respondent Mike Mamman, SAN said the insistence that Counsels to the petitioners should notify the court if the Attorney General and the EFCC were under notice to have the case against the trio withdrawn was proper and in order.
“I am surprised at the physical absence of the authors of this application at the court sitting today. It is disrespectful to the court” he added.
He said “it was inadequate and absolutely improper for Counsels to the petitioners to be absent at the court on the day they applied to withdraw the case against the accused persons.
All the Counsels to the petitioners were absent at the court sitting, a development which shocked the Counsels the respondents in the case and observers of the court proceedings.
Counsel to the second respondent, Ibrahim Ishaku, SAN, registered his objection to the petitioners’ application to withdraw their appearances henceforth on the grounds that it smacks of an underhand clouded.
He argued that as professional lawyers, the Counsels to the petitioners should have been at the court sitting to finalise their withdrawal.
The trial Judge, Justice Munkha’ila Abdullahi in his remarks, noted that having listened to the Counsels to the respondents notwithstanding, the prayers of the Counsels to the petitioners to withdraw the case had been granted since that was their wish.
In furtherance of his arguments, Counsel to third respondent, Mike Mamman, SAN, said in the absence of the petitioners, the faith of the respondents was now hanging in the balance since there was no prosecution on them and no judgment against them either.
He therefore sought leave of the court to understand that both the petitioners and the prosecution were one. “In this case, both the agents of the EFCC and the Attorney General are out of the case, while the accused persons are left like orphans”.
He urged your trial Judge to hold in regard that the accused persons should be assumed to be innocent since the complainants have withdrawn the case before the court against the trio.
Mike Mamman said the court should provide a remedy for the accused persons. “The Lordship should decide to discharge the accused persons forthwith” he pleaded.
The trial Judge however argued that the court would rather grant an adjournment on the matter even though there was no formal application by anybody in that respect.
He insisted that the court was at liberty to hold on to the case and watch further developments. He said it was too early in the day for the court to discharge the accused persons forthwith.
Mike Mamman, SAN registered his surprise at the discretion of the judge to use his powers in holding on to a matter in which the complainants had withdrawn their allegations against the respondents.
The judge fixed 22nd January, 2020 for hearing on the request by Counsels to the respondents to have the case against the trio close and to discharge them.