Money Laundering: Former Governor Goje’s Absence Stalls Trial
The absence of former governor of Gombe State, Danjuma Goje in court on Thursday November 8, 2012 stalled hearing in the 18 count charge of Conspiracy and Money Laundering instituted against him and four others: Alhaji Aliyu El –Nafarty (former Chairman Gombe State Universal Basic Education Board), Alhaji Sambo Mohammed Tumu and S.M. Dakoro (a businessman), by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.
At the last adjourned date, the trial judge, Justice Babatunde Quadri of the Federal High Court Gombe had fixed 8th and 9th November, 2012 for accelerated hearing.
When the matter was mentioned, the prosecution was shocked that the 1st accused, Danjuma Goje was not in court. Lead Defence counsel Chris Uche SAN, produced a medical report purportedly issued by the National Assembly Clinic Abuja, and signed by one Dr. Yero S.I. as evidence that his client was not fit to be present in court. The report claim that Goje is under observation for “acute exacerbation of hypertension due to an underlying stress”.
Prosecution counsel, Wahab Shittu drew the court’s attention to fact that the prosecution witnesses were in court and that the matter was specifically adjourned to November 8 to accommodate Danjuma Goje’s travel for the Hajj.
Shittu wondered how a person that travelled from Saudi Arabia after the Hajj and attended a plenary session at the senate would find it difficult to travel to Gombe for a court appearance.
He therefore demanded that the court issues a bench warrant for the arrest of the 1st accused person or adjourn for his appearance in court on Friday, November 9, 2012.
But Uche, SAN urged the court to adjourn proceedings as a criminal trial requires the presence of an accused person. Alternatively, he said the prosecution should strike the name of the 1st accused from the charge and proceed with the trial of the other accused persons.
Shittu rejected the suggestion to strike out Goje from the charge. “The charge will not be split because they are interlinked and interrelated with all accused persons, also I do not intend and will not withdraw the charges against the accused persons now or forever until the matter is determined on its merit by the court”, he said.
He urged the court to be mindful of attempts to delay and scuttle the trial.
Justice B. O. Quadri however upheld the medical report, since, according to him, there was no contrary report from the prosecution; and adjourned proceedings till Tuesday 22nd and Wednesday 23rd January 2013.
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