Commencement of trial of a senior lawyer, Mr Ricky Tarfa, accused of perverting the course of justice started on a shaky ground yesterday as the prosecution – the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) – failed to provide the defense team with necessary documents required for the trial.
Tarfa, a senior advocate was dragged before the court by the anti-graft agency over allegation that he prevented its officers from arresting some suspects, Nadir Odeste and Gnanhoue Sourou of Rane Prestige Nig.Ltd and Hair Prestige Nig. Ltd at the premises of the State High Court, Igbosere, sequel to a petition by one Mrs Rasidatu Abdul.
When the trial was expected to commence before Justice Aishat Opesanwo, a lawyer who represented the prosecution, Abba Mohammed, tendered before the court a petition by a prosecution witness, Awolusi Moses, intimating the Deputy Director of Operation of the EFCC, how the defendant allegedly prevented the arrest of the suspects.
His intention to commence argument therefrom was thwarted by an intervention from the defense counsel, Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), who objected to the tendering of the document, on the ground that it was not included in the proof of evidence filed before the court by the prosecution.
Owonikoko argued that the attempt by the prosecution to tender the document would amount to a trial by ambush, if the court allows it..
He said: “The petition written by the PW1 was not front loaded in the proof of evidence of the prosecution asrequired . The EFCC adopted a tactics of trial by ambush as we are never aware of the petition as part of proof of evidence contrary to standard rule of criminal procedure,” he said.
“The whole world is watching the trial, more so the EFCC has concluded the trial on the pages of newspapers and now cannot continue in court. We are shocked that since the last adjournment, prosecution has not done the needful to commence trial.”
Owonikoko further said his client has been out of practice as a result of the trial, hence the reason they are poised to speed up the trial without delay.
Expressing her surprise over EFCC’s action, Justice Opesanwo the matter is of public importance and interest. She added that the court vacated other matters earlier scheduled for yesterday to hear the matter but it was obvious the agency ‘ was not prepared for this trial.