An attempt by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission(EFCC) to tender fresh evidence against Erastus Akingbola, a former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, on Friday met with stiff resistance from his counsel.
After listening to arguments on both sides,
Justice Mojisola Olatoregun, adjourned to April 18, 2019 for ruling on the admissibility of the documents in contention.
Akingbola is standing trial on an amended 22-count charge bordering on abuse of office, conversion of funds belonging to Intercontinental Bank Plc, and stealing.
The fresh evidence, which included the statements of accounts and accounts particulars of Tropics Securities Limited, Tropics Properties Limited and Tropics Finance with Access Bank, were tendered in evidence through the third prosecution witness, Iyoyo Eweh.
Prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, SAN, informed the court that Eweh, a staff of Access Bank Plc was a substitute for the next witness to be called on the witness list.
“The reason Iyoyo Eweh is a substitute is because the third witness to be called has left the bank and has absconded from the country, and the prosecution had to bring Iyoyo as a substitute witness majorly to tender the documents through him,” Jacobs said.
Defence counsel, Wole Olanipekun, SAN, however, raised objections, arguing that a witness cannot be substituted in a criminal trial. But Jacobs apologised to the court and to the defence for the new development. Consequently, Eweh was allowed by the court to testify.
Under examination, he told the court that he was recently contacted by the EFCC to provide the statements of accounts and accounts particulars of Tropics Securities Limited, Tropics Properties Limited and Tropics Finance with Access Bank.
“The documents were provided, and I was asked to come and tender them in court,” he added.
Jacobs, thereafter, urged the court to accept the documents in evidence against Akingbola.
Olanipekun, however, opposed the admissibility of the documents, arguing that, “these documents sought to be tendered by the prosecution are documents dated April 3, 2019, 48 hours ago, which seem to be illegal and it is against public policy”.
He added that: “Once a case is brought before the court, it is presumed that all investigations have been concluded and no further investigation can be done or tendered through document in court.
“This case has been pending for 10 years, and now, the prosecution came with evidence been sourced 48 hours ago.
“More so, the documents are Access Bank Plc documents, which are processes or made as a result of evidences already given in order to frustrate the interest of justice.
“I urge your lordship to reject this sourced and self-serving documents, which has also made a substitution in the original evidence after proceedings commenced.
“Access Bank Plc is a beneficiary of the prosecution of the defendant and all the documents are signed by Access Bank as an interested party in this case,” Olanipekun said.
Responding, Jacobs argued that, the prosecution was not bound to limit itself with provision of witness and documented facts in a criminal matter.
“Prosecution may at any time before the judgement of the court on a case, file and serve notice of additional proof of evidence which may include additional evidence,” Jacobs said.
He added further that, “the documents sought to be tendered are old documents of Intercontinental Bank Plc but sought to be tendered by a mere staff of the bank who has no interest in the case.”
He further argued that Access Bank Plc was not a party, or an interested party in the matter.
“The only interested party in this case is the Federal Government of Nigeria and Dr. Erastus Akingbola,” Jacobs added.
The judge subsequently adjourned for ruling.