Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja has expressed displeasure at the lackadaisical attitude of the Federal Government over the handling of the prosecution of Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume.
The judge, in a ruling yesterday, while refraining from dismissing the case, however, warned the prosecution not to take “the patience and magnanimity being shown by the court” for granted.
Ndume, the senator representing Borno South, is facing terrorism related charges before the court.
He was first arraigned before Justice Kolawole on December 12, last year, on a four-count charge by the Department of State Services (DSS).
He was accused of sponsoring the Boko Haram sect and failing to provide information about the sect’s operations.
However, on Tuesday, the prosecution, which had called about three witnesses in the trial, failed to show up in court.
It was to call more witnesses in continuation of the case. The development prompted lead defence lawyer, Rickey Tarfa (SAN), to apply that his client be discharged and the case dismissed on the ground that it seemed the state was foot dragging on the matter.
The defence counsel argued that if the accused person and his lawyer could make it to court despite the transportation crisis created by the blockage of most roads in Abuja yesterday over President Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential declaration, the prosecution, whose office was next to the court house, has no excuse for being absent.
Ruling, Justice Kolawole said: “The prosecution team was in court on the last date when this case came up for ruling and were aware of today’s adjournment. Surprisingly, they are not here today and no letter was addressed to the court to explain why none of the state counsel, who have been appearing in this case, was in court today.
“Although I acknowledge that virtually all roads that lead to the Federal High Court have been blocked by security operatives on account of an event which is scheduled to hold at the Eagle Square, but the accused person and counsel are in court.
“The Federal Ministry of Justice, where the prosecution comes from, is the next building to this court complex. By this fact, there is nearly no justifiable reason why the prosecution is not in court today.
“The case is already part heard and it is the prosecution that is still fielding its witnesses. That is, there is no way any meaningful proceedings can be undertaken without the prosecution and any of its witnesses.
“Let me put it on record that I am not satisfied and pleased with the lackadaisical attitude of the prosecution in this case. If the prosecution no longer has any witness to field, it can apply to close its case and may even throw in the towel, if for any reason, the will to further prosecute the charge against the accused person is no longer there or has waned”.
The trial judge refrained from either closing the prosecution’s case or dismissing the charge, as prayed by the defence lawyer.
Instead, he warned that “the patience and magnanimity being shown by the court should not be taken for granted, as the court has the obligation to do justice to all the parties; fair trial to the accuse person and fair hearing to both parties.
“In this circumstance, the date earlier fixed for this week, are hereby vacated. Case is adjourned to January 29, 2015, for continuation of trial”.