$8.4m Fraud: Ajudua’s Counsel Absconds Midway Into Cross-Examination Of Bamaiyi

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A mild drama occurred at an Ikeja High Court yesterday as defence counsel, Mr Allen Agbaka, absconded from courtroom midway into cross-examination of retired Lt.-Gen. Ishaya Bamaiyi, a former Chief of Army Staff.
Our correspondent reports that Agbaka is part of the team defending Fred Ajudua accused of defrauding Bamaiyi of $8.4 million when the retired general was incarcerated at the Kirikiri Maximum Prisons.
During proceedings yesterday which began at 11.00a.m., Agbaka who was holding brief for Mr Olalekan Ojo (SAN), Ajudua’a lead counsel, informed the court that Ojo was unavailable to cross-examine Bamaiyi due to ill-health.
Agbaka also told the court that he was also battling ill-health but would go ahead to cross-examine Bamaiyi on Ojo’s behalf. At 12.40p.m., Agbaka informed the court that he would like to seek an adjournment of the trial because he had a doctor’s appointment at 1.00pm.
Justice Josephine Oyefeso frowned at the request, saying that defence had deployed tactics to delay the trial of the case which was initially filed in court in 2013.
She doubted Agbaka’s claim, noting that he had vibrantly cross-examined Bamaiyi. She ruled that the trial would be stood down for 30 minutes till 1.10p.m. to enable him to refresh and conclude the cross-examination.
At 1.10p.m .when the court resumed sitting, Agbaka was absent in court and had given Ajudua a handwritten note which stated that he had to keep his medical appointment. Oyefeso held that Agbaka acted contemptuously of the court.
She stood down the trial for another 30 minutes to enable thecounsel to return to conclude the cross-examination. At 2.38p.m., when the court resumed sitting, Agbaka was still absent. Without SystemSpecs, there would be no TSA, Okolieaboh hails indigenous Fintech firm Reacting to the development, MrSeiduAtteh, lead counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said that Agbaka’s action was unprofessional.
“What he did amounts to contempt of the court, he just walked away. This is not the standard of behaviour expected of a legal practitioner,” the prosecution counsel said.
Addressing the court, Ajudua said: “My lord, I once again apologise for the conduct of Mr Alex Agbaka. He had an appointment with his doctor for 1pm. Without SystemSpecs, there would be no TSA, Okolieaboh hails indigenous Fintech firm “If your lordship is mindful, an adjournment will be the best option for me. My lord if you should insist, I will like to cross-examine PW1 (Bamaiyi). Let us see how far we can go.”
Justice Oyefeso in a ruling frowned at the frequent delay in the trial which she said was at the instance of the defence.
She said: “The defence counsel’s conduct is not setting a good example for the younger ones coming behind. This is a case that has suffered untold delay since 2013, when the information was filed.
“The case was before honourable Justice Ipaye from then till 2016 when it was assigned to me.”
It went through applications challenging jurisdiction, seeking quashing of the charges. Rulings were delivered dismissing the applications.
“The defendant was finally arraigned on May 16, 2017. Trial did not commence until Nov. 26, 2018, when the court took the evidence-in-chief of PW1. Cross-examination finally commenced on Feb. 21.