24 May 2018

Nigeria: Court Adjourns Rickey Tarfa's Trial As Defence Insists On Records

An Ikeja Division of the Lagos State High Court has adjourned the trial of Rickey Tarfa, a lawyer, to June 22 for the defence lawyer to open his defence.

Aishat Opesanwo, the judge, adjourned on May 24 after the defence insisted it needed to obtain the court's record of proceedings before going ahead with the case.

"We are unable to proceed because we need proceedings of the trial because we cannot rely on our records for defence," said Abiodun Owonikoko, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria and counsel to Mr Tarfa.

"To avoid any issues today, we wrote a letter to that effect on 21 May and the recordings are still not available."

Mr Owonikoko's claim he would be unable to open his defence without the court's record of proceedings angered the counsel to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, G.K Latona, who responded that the court is not under any obligation to provide records of proceedings.

According to Mr Latona, it is the duty of counsels to take records for themselves during proceedings; he added that such issues shouldn't arise for the defence since several lawyers accompany them to the court.

"I find their observation quite strange because going through their no case submission, they copied copiously from the proceedings and I'm sure this matter would not arise if the court had upheld their no case submission."

The situation degenerated into a shouting match after Mr Owonikoko accused the EFCC counsel of attacking his person.

Responding, the judge said it is not the court's primary duty to provide records of proceedings to counsels.

"The court takes audio recordings and the machine is currently faulty except you expect me to put all other things aside to help you produce a manual copy of the proceedings and you would accept that is not my primary duty," Mrs Opesanwo said.

"I have suspected this and have spoken to the Justice Ayoola during an NJC meeting and this court cannot be compelled by a counsel to produce proceedings to aid his defence."

In March, the judge had dismissed a no case submission filed by Mr Tarfa's team.

She adjourned the matter till June 22 for Mr Owonikoko to open his defence, even as the lawyer insisted that the judge had not responded to his position and that they would not proceed with defence if the court does not produce its proceedings. He also insisted that the judge put his submissions on record.

Mr Tarfa, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, is facing a three-count charge of obstruction of justice, perverting the course of justice, and attempting to bribe a judge.

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