Nigeria: Naira Marley - Court Orders EFCC to Produce Witness Statements

22 October 2019

The trial of popular Nigerian musician, Azeez Fashola, popularly known as Naira Marley, resumed on Tuesday at the Lagos Division of the Federal High Court.

During the hearing, the judge, Nicholas Oweibo, ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to furnish the defence counsel, Olalekan Ojo, with witness statements which it (EFCC) took while investigating Naira Marley for alleged internet fraud.

Prior to the commencement of trial, Mr Ojo brought to the notice of the court that he had a motion on notice that he would prefer to be heard and determined before the trial opened.

"In the course of pre-trial preparation, it was discovered that certain documents which we require and to which prosecution made reference in their proof of evidence, are not available to us," Mr Ojo said.

The EFCC counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, however, opposed the adjournment application, stating that the prosecution was not in possession of the required documents.

He also added that the defence was not entitled to the statements as a right.

Justice Oweibo, however, gave leave to the defence to raise its motion.

In the motion, the defendant prayed the court to compel the EFCC to furnish him with the prosecution witnesses' statements.

After listening to the motion, the judge gave a bench ruling in favour of the defendant.

He then ordered the EFCC to provide the defence with its investigators' statements, if any.

"In a criminal trial, it must be borne in mind that criminal trial at the Federal High Court is a summary trial, therefore proof of evidence is not required," the judge said.

"However, the investigating officer's report must be furnished to the defence and the statements of witnesses, if any."

Justice Oweibo subsequently adjourned till October 23 for the commencement of the trial.

Background

Naira Marley popular for his "Am I a Yahoo Boy" and "Soapy" tracks, is being prosecuted by the EFCC on an 11-count charge of conspiracy, possession of counterfeit cards and fraud.

His co-defendant is one Yad Isril, who is said to still be at large.

PREMIUM TIMES reported how Naira Marley was arrested by the anti-graft agency, EFCC, for alleged internet fraud.

Naira Marley was arraigned on May 20, 2019 and pleaded not guilty to all 11 counts.

He was also granted bail of N2 million with two sureties in like sum.

According to the charge, the defendant committed the offences on different dates, November 26, 2018, December 11, 2018, and May 10.

Naira Marley and his accomplices allegedly conspired to use different Access Bank ATM Cards to defraud their victims.

They allegedly used Access Card number 5264711020433662 issued to other persons, in a bid to obtain fraudulent financial gains.

Naira Marley was said to have possessed these counterfeit credit cards, belonging to different cardholders, with intent to defraud, and which also constituted theft.

The offences contravene the provisions of Section 1 23 (1) (b), 27 (1}, 33, 33(9) Cyber Crime (Prohibition) Prevention Act, 2015.

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