By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
Justice A. S. Umar of the Federal Capital Territory High Court sitting in Maitama has adjourned to Friday, June 16, 2017 to decide whether or not to admit two documents by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, against a former Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, who is being charged for contravening Section 26 (1) (b) of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offence Act 2000.
According to an EFCC statement, Jibrin is facing trial alongside Rear Admiral Bala Mshelia, Rear Admiral Shehu Ahmadu (all retired) and Habor Bay International Limited on a 4-count charge of criminal conspiracy preferred against them by the EFCC.
The naval chiefs whilst in office allegedly bought a house worth N600million from the account of Naval Engineering Services without budgetary provision.
It was also alleged that, the documentation for transfer of ownership of the property was done such that a private company owned by the family of the first defendant (Vice Admiral Jibrin) became the buyer.
At the sitting today, counsel to the EFCC, Faruk Abdallah, informed the court he had two pending applications seeking to tender documents in evidence.
“The first is the Appropriation Act of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 2013 and 2014.
“The second application is the appropriation Act of the National Assembly for 2013 and 2014 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“This court is enjoined by the Evidence Act to take judicial notice of these documents”, Abadllah prayed.
In response, Y.C Maikyau, SAN, counsel to Jibrin, objected saying, “I oppose the admission of the documents, the proper starting point is to properly situate the type of document sought to be tendered.”
Citing Section 106 of the evidence Act, Maikyau said that, “what prosecution applied is an Act of the National Assembly, particularly 2013 and 2014”.
According to him, “An Act of National Assembly is a public document written by public official”.
Arguing further he said, “An Act of the National Assembly through the start to the end is a legislative process that must start and end with the assent of the president. The process must be a matter of law to the point of printing before the Act can be receivable in evidence”.
The learned silk submitted that, “the bundle of documents bought before your Lordship are not so printed or a gazette in accordance to laws as to make them receivable in evidence. We, therefore, urged your Lordship to reject the documents”.
Responding, Abdallah cited Section 122 (1) (2) of the Evidence Act saying, “whether the documents we seek to tender complied with the Act or not it can be seen in the Act itself”.
While urging the court to take judicial notice of the Appropriation Act of 2013 and 2014, the EFCC’s counsel said, “What we seek to tender was an order, an official communication”.
He urged the court to discountenance the argument of the defence and admit the documents in evidence.
After listening to the submissions of counsels, Justice Umar adjourned for ruling.
Earlier, the judge had rejected in evidence documents from the budget office of the federation obtained by the EFCC, which the prosecution sought to tender.
It would be recalled that, at the last hearing date (May 22, 2017), the prosecution witness, Idris Wakili, a staff of the budget office, presented a certified true copy of the budget of the Nigeria Navy for 2013 and 2014 but Maikyau objected its admissibility on the grounds that, “the same documents earlier tendered by the prosecution and rejected by the court for non-certification are being re-presented”.
Though, Abdallah argued frantically to the effect that, the issues were not the same and that the prosecution had listed a staff of the budget office as a witness in the proof of evidence, Justice Umar in his ruling today, held that, “the documents are the same” and marked it “rejected”.
Further hearing on the case has been adjourned to July 13 and 14, 2017.