The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Friday, fined former JAMB registrar, Dibu Ojerinde, N100,000 over his plea for an adjournment, considered to be delaying trial commencement.
Justice Obiora Egwuatu made the order after counsel to the ICPC, Ebenezer Shogunle, prayed for an award of a fine in favour of one of the commission’s witnesses, who travelled from Ibadan to testify in the money laundering trial.
Earlier when the matter was called, Mr Shogunle informed that the matter was slated for commencement of trial and that three of the ICPC’s witnesses were in court.
However, the new counsel to the former JAMB boss, Dr Doyin Awoyale, said his chamber was just being briefed to take over the matter and that he would need a little time to study the case.
He then applied for an adjournment to allow them to get familiarised with the matter.
“This is necessary in view of the fact that the defendant just briefed a new set of lawyers led by Ibrahim Isyaku ,SAN. That is our prayer,” he said.
But Mr Shogunle opposed the request, saying one of the three ICPC’s witnesses, “travelled from Ibadan to be in court today.”
He argued further that this would be the third time Mr Ojerinde would be requesting for an adjournment in the matter.
“At the last adjourned date, my Lord even warned that all parties should prepare for trial today,” he added.
The lawyer said though he was prepared to proceed with the trial, “in the event that my lord is minded to grant the defendant counsel an adjournment to enable him familiarise himself with the case as he said, I urge my lord to make an order for the defendant to pay one of the witnesses’ expenses as provided for under Sections 251 and 252 of ACJA (Administration of Criminal Justice Act).”
However, Mr Awoyale disagreed with Shogunle’s prayer, arguing that the law provided that the defendant should be afforded enough time to prepare for his defence.
He said the sections of the law cited were not applicable owing to the antecedence of the matter.
Mr Egwuatu, who noted that when lawyers complain that the wheel of justice does not go fast, the blame is often shifted on the judges, recalled that Mr Ojerinde was arraigned on July 8 and later granted bail.
The judge narrated how the defendant had sought for an adjournment on three different occasions.
He said the defendant had all the time to prepare for his defence, and should he fail to do so, it was nobody’s fault.
Mr Awoyale then accepted to pay the fine but urged the court to adjourn the matter in the interest of justice.
Mr Egwuatu, who ordered the defence to pay the witness who travelled from Ibadan the sum of N100,000 on or before October 11, adjourned the matter until February 8 and February 9 for trial commencement.
On September 29, Mr Ojerinde sought adjournment to enable him to engage another lawyer in his trial.
Prior to his decision, Peter Olorunnisola, SAN, had been appearing for the ex-JAMB boss.
The ICPC, in the suit marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/97/21, said that the former chief executive officer allegedly committed multiple frauds, while heading JAMB and the National Examination Council (NECO).
Justice Egwuatu had, on July 8, admitted Mr Ojerinde to bail in the sum of N200 million with two sureties.