FRN vs Paul Usoro: Court Adjourns for Hearing of Pending Applications

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Justice Rilwan Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Ikoyi, Lagos has adjourned further hearing in the trial of the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Mr. Paul Usoro SAN to Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

The Court Adjourned to enable EFCC counsel, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo respond to three pending applications filed in the suit.

At the resumed hearing, I. A Adedipe SAN led 18 counsel, including five Senior Advocates of Nigeria for the Defendant. He informed the Honourable Court of a pending application filed by the Defendant seeking the order of the honourable court directing the EFCC to serve on the Defendant the “summarized witness statements of evidence” of three EFCC witnesses before proceeding with trial.  He relied on the provisions of Section 36 (6) (b) and (d) of the Constitution in urging the court to direct that all documents that are required for the Defendant to prepare for his defence be made available to him.

On his part Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, who led a team of eight lawyers prayed the court to determine an application filed to set aside the bench warrant issued by the Honourable Court at the last hearing on Uwemedimo Thomas Nwoko, Nsiksn Linus Akan, Mfon Jacobson Udoma and Margareth Thomson Ukpe who are not parties in the case. He urged the Court to hear his application which he noted is ripe for hearing having been filed since March 4, 2019.

Dr. Charles Mekunye who appeared for the Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel also urged the court to determine his application challenging the jurisdiction of the Honourable Court to entertain the case as presently constituted.

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Mr. Rotimi Jacob, Counsel to FRN who was yet to respond to any of the applications urged the court to proceed with trial noting that the applications would not affect the proceeding of the day. He relied on the provisions of Section 379 of the ACJA in urging the court to proceed with his first witness. On the application filed by the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Mr. Jacob informed the court that the Governor is not a party to the suit and as such, does not have the locus to bring an application to challenge the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court. He relied on the provision of Section 396 of the ACJA in this regard. Mr. Jacob also informed the Honorable Court that he intends to challenge the application seeking to set aside the bench warrant.

The Court adjourned to hear all pending applications. He directed Mr. Jacob to file all his responses before the next adjourned date and warned parties that the court would not tolerate delay from any of the counsel.

It would be recalled that Mr. Usoro SAN is being tried for allegedly receiving monies which according to the EFCC he ought to have known “forms part of the proceeds of unlawful act”.

Mr. Usoro SAN has  maintained that he presented enough evidence to show the EFCC that the sums he received were professional fees validly earned for prosecuting cases for Gov. Udom and Akwa Ibom State Government.

For onlookers, especially, lawyers, it is important that this particular case is determined on its merit to afford lawyers a clearer view of steps to take in receiving professional fees.

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