Ex-Aviation Minister, Borishade loses bid to stop trial

Rahila Lassa, Abuja

Babalola Borishade

A High Court sitting in Abuja has refused to stop the trial of the former Minister of Aviation, Babalola Borishade and four others.

Borishade, his former personal assistant, Tunde Dairo, and two others, are alleged to have mismanaged a N5.2 billion Aviation Safe Tower contract.

Others on trial for the alleged offence are former Managing Director of Nigeria Airspace Management Agency, Rowland Iyayi; an Australian, George Eider and Avsatel Communications Ltd.

The defendants had been on trial since November 19, 2009 when they were arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, on a 15-count charge of taking bribe and forging aviation contract documents.

The matter which was slated for Wednesday, February 3, could not go on as planned, as the Attorney General requested for a brief on the case by the EFCC, since the matter had been in court for about 7 years.

Consequent upon the Attorney-General’s request, the EFCC had furnished his office with the brief of the case and the proceedings that have transpired over time regarding the matter.

It would be recalled that, counsel to the first defendant, Kehinde Ogunwumiju and Regina Okotie Eboh representing the 4th and 5th defendants, had earlier asked the court to strike out the case for lack of diligent prosecution, which was strongly opposed by Chile Okoroma, counsel to EFCC.

Ruling on the application, Justice Abubakar Sadiq Umar opined that the withdrawal from a case by a lawyer from a private firm did not constitute abandonment or lack of appearance of the prosecution.

Consequently, he ruled that the application by counsels to the defendants to foreclose or discharge the defendants was refused and ordered the prosecution to continue its case.

Thereafter, Okoroma presented PW 10, Reuben Omosigho, an operative with the Economic Governance Unit of the EFCC.

However, Ogunwumiju raised an objection saying that the evidence of the EFCC operative was already on record and needed no duplication, but that cross-examination was the next step.

His objection was sustained by the court.

Rather than cross –examine the witness, however, Ogunwumiju prayed the court for a short adjournment saying their application to be furnished with the court’s records was still pending.

“We cannot afford to take chances with our own records, we need to be guided by the court”, Ogunwumiju said.

Other counsels aligned with his submission.

However, the EFCC counsel, Okoroma vehemently opposed the application arguing that,  “there is no law that states that the cross-examination of a witness is dependent on the defence obtaining court records”.

However, counsel to the 4th and 5th defendants, Regina Okotie Eboh argued that, “the adjournment being sought for is not ill-conceived, but necessary for us to get our facts right”.

Justice Umar adjourned to the March 7 for continuation of trial.