| By Destiny Ugorji |
AT the resumed hearing of the on-going trial of Stephen Oronsaye, Nigeria’s former Head of Service, before Justice Olasumbo Goodluck of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, Abuja, Wednesday, counsels to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and the defendant had a heated argument over the admissibility of documents presented by the EFCC.
Leading a witness, Bello Hammadhama in evidence, I.O. Uket, prosecution counsel, had tendered four statements allegedly made by the accused while in EFCC custody, urging the Court to admit them in evidence.
Relying on section 52 of the Evidence Act, he argued that the leader of the EFCC investigating team, who had earlier appeared in court as prosecution witness (1) administered the word of caution on the defendant before extracting the statements from him.
“It is in evidence that the statements sought to be tendered were made by the defendant himself. The four statements were made on: 25/8/2015; 27/8/2015; 3/9/2015 and 29/2/2016. The defendant signed these statements as the maker, while PW 1 signed clearly as a witness.”
Objecting to the admissibility of the documents, leader of the defence team, A.I. Ola, SAN, urged the court to reject the document, adding that prosecution witness (6) was not the proper person to present same to the court. He cited section 83, sub-sections 1, 2 and 4 of the Evidence Act, among other authorities, in support of his argument.
“The defendant is prejudiced. PW 6 cannot be giving witness for PW 1. The Statement was recorded by the PW 1. She has been before this Court to testify. The opportunity was there for her to tender the documents. The defence counsel did not cross-examine her on this document because it was not tendered. Now, the prosecution is trying to present it through the back door. Prosecution deliberately denied us the opportunity of cross-examining the PW 1. I urge your lordship to reject the document.”
In her ruling, O.O. Goodluck, presiding Judge, held that: “the documents sought to be tendered are statements of the defendant while in custody. This court has exhaustively looked at the arguments from both the defence and prosecution counsels and is of the opinion that the documents could be admitted. However, caution must be applied in attaching value to its contents.”
The case was adjourned to September 29, for continuation of hearing and cross-examination of the PW 6 by the defence Counsel.
— Sep 28, 2016 @ 20:10 GMT