FRN vs Usoro: Court Gives EFCC 7 Days to Furnish Defendant with Complete Proof of Evidence

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Justice Aikawa of the Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has ordered the EFCC to furnish Defence counsel with the Summarized Statements of Witnesses listed on the proof of evidence within seven days of the order.

The Order was made following an application filed by counsel for the Defendant Chief Offiong Offiong SAN.

Arguing the application which was filed on the 15th of March, 2019, Chief Offiong Offiong SAN informed the Court that  to enable the Defendant prepare for trial, the Prosecution is obligated to furnish the Defendant with the summarized Statements of all the Witnesses. The application which was unopposed was moved upon the request by Prosecuting Counsel for a definite trial date. Chief Offiong argued that to ensure that the document are furnished to the Defendant, it is imperative that an order of court be made to that effect. He further noted that this will ensure that trial is not stalled at the next adjourned date. The reliefs sought were granted as prayed by the Court upon confirmation by the Prosecution that it is not opposed to the application.

Earlier, the application filed by the Governor Udom Emmanuel  of Akwa Ibom State, was dismissed by the Honourable.

Governor Udom had through his counsel challenged jurisdiction of the Court to hear the charge on the ground that charge 1 to 4 as presently constituted required the appearance of the Governor (who is presently immune from criminal trial) to attend court to defend the charge among other issues. The Applicant relied on the provisions of Sections 35, 36, 128, 308 of the Constitution and Section 382 (4) of the ACJA.

Disagreeing with the Applicant, Justice Aikawa in his ruling noted that the mere mention of the Applicant in the Charge does not make him a party to the Charge. He also ruled that the Applicant’s right to fair hearing would not be breached as he is not on trial. My Lord held that if there is anyone that should complain of the charge as presently constituted, it is Mr. Paul Usoro SAN. On the strength of the foregoing, the application was dismissed.

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The suit was adjourned to 3rd July 2019 for trial.

A timely completion of this suit would afford lawyers a clearer understanding of what steps to take in receiving professional fees from clients. Mr. Usoro SAN is standing trial in respect of professional fees charged  by his firm, Paul Usoro & Co from the Akwa Ibom State Government and the Governor of Akwa Ibom State. The EFCC has alleged that he ought to have known the funds  “forms part of the proceeds of unlawful act”.

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