The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has opposed the request by former Gombe State governor, Danjuma Goje to transfer his trial for conspiracy and money laundering from the Federal High Court Gombe to Abuja. Goje and five others (Aliyu El-Nafaty, Sambo Tumu, S.M. Dokoro and S.M. Dokoro Gombe) are standing trial before Justice Babatunde O. Quadri. At today sitting, the defence team led by Chris Uche, SAN drew the court's attention to the letter written to the Chief Justice of the Federation for change of venue and transfer of the case from the present court in Gombe to Abuja or any other jurisdiction outside Gombe state for security reasons. He urged the court to suspend proceedings while awaiting the directive from the CJN, before hearing of the pending application. But prosecution Counsel, Wahab Shittu objected, saying the court can continue with the matter pending any response from the CJN.
Justice Quadri upheld the prosecution's argument and urged both counsel to consider the stress of coming from outside Gombe and seize the opportunity of time.
Arguing his motion for transfer before the court, Chris Uche, SAN quoted sections of the Federal High Court Act 2004 and the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to support his motion. He predicated his request on the grounds that the matter is a high profile one and that the security situation in the North East zone with regularly reported incidents of killings, kidnappings, bomb blasts and assassinations underline the need to protect the lives of the accused persons and their lawyers.
In his response, Shittu, called the court's attention to the fact that in all the proceedings prior to the application, there had been no incident in court to warrant the request for transfer. According to Wahab, "this application lacks merit and only determined to delay the wheel of justice and your lordship is entitled to resist it". He further queried the intention of the defence: "What is the application saying, that your lordship should transfer this case to Abuja? The presumption is that Abuja is safe to hear this case. Do we believe them? Or is the applicant saying that the case should be transferred to the Villa since they deposed in paragraph 13 of their affidavit that the last Independence Day was moved out of its traditional place – the Eagle Square -to the villa for security reasons?"
Shittu urged the court to throw out the application as acceding to it would be tantamount to setting a precedence which may encourage other persons with cases before the court to seek transfer of their cases to choice places.
Justice Quadri has fixed ruling on the matter for tomorrow, January 23, 2013.
Media & Publicity Unit.
22nd January, 2013