The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Friday, fined former registrar of the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB), Prof Dibu Ojerinde, N100,000 over his plea for an adjournment.
The court's position was that it was targeted to defer the commencement of his prosecution.
Justice Obiora Egwuatu declared in his ruling after counsel for the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Ebenezer Shogunle, prayed for an award of a fine in favour of one of the commission’s witnesses, who travelled from Ibadan, Oyo State to testify in the money laundering trial.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that earlier when the matter was called, Shogunle informed that the matter was scheduled for commencement of trial and that three of the ICPC’s witnesses were in court.
However, the new counsel for the former JAMB boss, Dr Doyin Awoyale, said his chamber was just being briefed to take over the case 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 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, Awoyale differed with Shogunle’s prayer, insisting that the law offered that the defendant should be afforded enough time to prepare for his defence.
He said the sections of the law quoted were not applicable owing to the antecedent of the matter.
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 Ojerinde was arraigned on July 8 and later granted bail.
The judge narrated how the defendant had sought 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.
Awoyale then accepted to pay the fine but urged the court to adjourn the matter in the interest of justice.
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 to February 8 and February 9 for trial commencement.
On September 29, Mr Ojerinde sought an adjournment to enable him to engage another lawyer in his trial.
Before 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 the former registrar 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.