A Federal High Court seated in Abuja has withdrawn from a case of the EFCC against the office of the former National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki.
The judge, who blamed the EFCC for frustrating proceedings in the trial and making several attempts to take over control of court, withdrew from the EFCC case and returned its file to the Chief Judge of the Court, Abdul Kafarati, for re-assignment to another court.
The trial involving a serving colonel in the Nigerian Army, Nicholas Ashinze, and five others ran into a conundrum as the judge conducted a cross examination on an EFCC operative, Hassan Sheidu.
The counsel to the army officer, Ernest Nwoye, had requested the EFCC operative who conducted investigation into the case to confirm to the court, if the name of Nicholas Ashinze appeared in any of the transactions relating to the N3.1 billion water project contract and which he answered negatively.
Mr. Nwoye further asked the EFCC witness to confirm to the court whether the contract was brought up by the office of the National Security Adviser where the army officer served or the Federal Ministry of Water Resources and which he answered in favour of the latter.
The hearing wore a lopsided garment when another question on whether the NSA office was responsible for payment of the contract came up. There was another questioning over the involvement of the office of Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) and if the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) which effected payment ever declared the water contract illegal or fraudulent. The EFCC witness gave negative answers to both accordingly.
Mr. Nwoye further pressed the EFCC witness to tell the court why the name of Nicholas Ashinze was placed on the charge sheet.
Ofem Uket, Counsel to the EFCC was put under the radar, hence became uncomfortable with the cross examination and began interjecting into the proceedings of the court persistently.
Efforts by the judge and other lawyers that the cross examination be allowed to go on without interjections were rebuffed as the counsel objected to virtually all the questions put to his witness.
In the face off that happened sequel to the events in the court room, Kolawole attempted to call EFCC to order but the effort yielded no fruitful result while other lawyers expressed their disavowal on the issue.
The interjection got to the climax when the counsel openly challenged the court records which were severally read out to him by judge to assuage his feelings.
However, when all efforts to call the counsel to order to stop the interjection were not adhered to, Justice Kolawole told the counsel to comport himself and act in manners expected of a legal practitioner which still gave no likeable end result.
The judge announced his withdrawal from the case at a point and transferred the file to the Chief Judge to handle.
Justice Kolawole accused the anti-graft agency of frustrating his court and desperately seeking to take over control of the court from him against the normal practice.
He said that it was the duty of the court to allow a witness in a criminal trial to be cross examined with questions contemplated by law adding that the display of apprehension by EFCC was unjust and un-called for.
The judge while lambasting the EFCC for taking the court, laws and the best practice for granted counseled the commission to always put its house in order before rushing to court for trial adding that justice was not for a particular side.
He therefore opted out of the case and returned the file to the chief judge for re-assignment to another judge.
Justice Kolawole had on March 21, 2017 stopped the trial of the defendants in the case when the EFCC in a press statement quoted the court proceedings wrongly with claims that the defendants were indicted for N36 billion contract fraud and put on trial before the court.
The press statement which was widely published in the newspapers drew the anger of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Paul Erokoro, who insisted that the EFCC statement was capable of misleading the general public.
The senior lawyer drew the attention of the court to the 13 court charge against the defendants involving N3.1 billion and not N36 billion; and demanded that the court call the EFCC to order in the media trial of the defendants.
The EFCC counsel, Ofem Uket, had denied granting a press interview but, however, admitted that the offending press statement emanated from the media unit of EFCC.
In his ruling then, Justice Kolawole condemned the EFCC for conducting two trials for the defendants in the media and his court.
The judge said that it was wrong of the EFCC to have claimed that the defendants were indicted for N36 billion alleged fraud when such a huge figure was not contained in the charge adding that such press statement will make a mincemeat of fair trial of the defendants.
The trial, however, resumed when the offending newspaper publications were retracted by the EFCC and apologies tendered to the court.
Other defendants in the case are Sadiq Mohammed, a foreigner A.C Wolfang and a lawyer Mr. Edidion Edidion.