Failure to fix Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, seal to the application to change counsel almost stalled further proceedings into the corruption trial against Justice Mohammed Yinusa by the Special Offences Court of the Ikeja High court on Tuesday.
It became a heated argument that was later resolved in favour of the prosecution team.
The defence team led by Chief Robert Clarke, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, opposed the hearing of the case following Justice Sherifat Solebo admittance of notice of application to change counsel.
According to him, the application did not follow due process.
At today’s proceedings, the prosecution team led by Mr. Wahab Shittu had announced to the court that, the prosecution is seeking to change counsel.
It would be recalled that earlier in the arraignment of Justice Yinusa, Mr. Anselm Oziokor had led the prosecution team of Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
But now Mr. Shittu informed the court that he filed an application to effect change of counsel with a motion on notice dated 9th February 2018 supported with a nine paragraph affidavits as well as written address.
But the defence counsels to Yinusa and co-defendant Esther Agbo, a staff of the Law Firm of Rickey Tarfa, SAN, Clarke and Mr. Odubela opposed the application on the basis that the documents he sought to push in is not stamped nor sealed by the NBA.
But the prosecution fought tooth and nail with relevant citations, seeking the judge’s consent to get the hearing started, but the defence teams opposed him because of non sealing of his documents.
Addressing the judge, Mr. Shittu urged the court to grant the application saying payment had been made for a new seal but is yet to be received.
He argued, “the primary concern is the element of justice, the counsel who signed has made payment for the seal. It is not as if they just signed without showing proof or payment for seal.
“In my own case, mine is being processed, Should a lawyer be out of circulation or practice, due to administrative process.
We should be concern about justice
I refer my lord Dapianlong and five others versus Dariye and others 2007 Supreme court … Part 3 page 118, Par 5-40. In the consideration of merit as to technicalities, the Supreme court submitted, ‘Long may you rain substantial Justice.’
He explained that an Access bank deposit slip is proof of payment that the process of obtaining a seal was in full course.
Chief Clarke however objected to all the explanations saying they are not tenable.
Clarke noted, “this is a court of law, any document presented before the court must bear a seal of that counsel.
My position is supported by the judgment of Court of Appeal.
The prosecution has not presented an established fact.
“He has not been able to present before this court any receipt of payment. This type of process has not been accepted by any court and should not be accepted. I submit that my lord should strike out the application.”
Clarke faulted that the prosecution’s affidavit in support of application did not contain excuses he made, adding, “what counsel is doing is giving evidence from the Bar.”
Meanwhile Counsel to the second defendant, Mr. Odubela told the judge that the prosecution’s approach in presenting his application violates professional conduct.
Odubela aligned further with first defence counsel that an application without a seal or stamp, such a submission is not tenable.
“This decision is very clear and unambiguous, I urged you to strike it out.
Ruling on their submissions, the judge admitted the application on the basis of a judgement delivered by Court of Appeal in Lagos in a case between Today’s Cars and LASACO that a process which which payment has been made for be deemed valid and urged the prosecution to perfect the process.
On this basis, Clarke objected.
While Shittu sought to urged the court to hear the case of the second defendant, Odubela objected saying this can not go on as the defendants were jointly charged.
This paved way for the judge to adjourn hearing on preliminary objections till 9th March, 2018.
Justice Yinusa was arraigned on five counts charge alongside Esther Agbo.
In the first Count, Justice Yinusa is charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice by engaging in constant private and confidential telephone communications with a Mr. Tarfa, SAN, during a period he presided over two of the senior advocate’s matter.
In the second count, he is also charged with corruption for allegedly receiving the sum of N1.5million paid to him by his co-defendant, Agbo in other to give decisions in favour of the Chambers of the Law Firm of Rickey Tarfa.
In the third count, Justice Yinusa is further charged with agreeing to receive financial benefit from another Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Joseph Nwobike in other to give favourable decisions in the cases of the said lawyer before him.
In count four, the EFCC alleged that the embattled Yinusareceived the sum of N750,000 from Mr. Nwobike and in the fifth charge, Esther Agbo is charged with offering gratification of NI.5 million to Justice Yinusa in order to induce him to give decisions in favour of the Law Chambers of Rickey Tarfa.