Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja has levelled a fine of N200,000 against counsel for Apartment le Paradis, a hotel in which Nanle Dariye, son of a former Plateau State Governor, Joshua Dariye, is a director, for inefficiency.
Nanle was on February 27, 2018 arraigned along with Apartment le Paradis on a six-count charge of money laundering to the tune of N1.5 billion, to which he pleaded “not guilty”.
Shortly after the prosecution closed its case against him, his counsel, Kanu Agabi, SAN, on February 13, 2019 argued his “no-case” submission via an application dated and filed on December 13, 2018. Ruling on the application on March 7, 2019 the trial judge struck out count one of the charges, which directly affected Nanle, and held that the hotel had a case to answer in the money laundering charge.
Invariably, Justice Ojukwu had adjourned to April 10, 2019 for the second defendant to open its defence. However, at the resumed sitting, Agabi was absent in court, but instead, sent in a junior lawyer, who rather than continue with the defence, appealed for an adjournment, noting that she was just informed about the case and was not prepared to lead the defence. She further added that an agreement had been struck with the prosecution as regards the request for adjournment.
But counsel for the EFCC, Ike Okonjo, refuted the claim of any such agreement, stressing that the prosecution had come prepared to continue with the case and was surprised at the position of the defence. “For the records, we do not have any agreement with the defence, and this is all mischief to delay the course of the law,” Okonjo said.
Expressing displeasure at the rather lackadaisical attitude of the defence, Justice Ojukwu wondered how the defence would come after one month unprepared to continue with the case. “I have given you ample time to adequately prepare for the defence, you cannot come here one month after to ask for another adjournment,” the trial judge said.
The trial judge, thereafter, adjourned to May 13 to 15, 2019, and ordered the defence to pay N200,000 fine before the next trial date.