Alleged Bribery Charge: Rickey Tarfa’s Ill health Stalls Trial

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The trial of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, charged with perversion of the course of justice before an Igbosere High Court in Lagos, was on Wednesday stalled for the third time due to the ill health of the defendant.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged Tarfa with 26 counts bordering on offering monetary gratification to two judges of the Federal High Court – Justices Hyeladzira Nganjiwa and Mohammed Yunusa.

At the resumed hearing, Defence Counsel, Mr Jelili Owonikoko, SAN, told the court that the defendant was in a car within the court premises but could not enter the court room due to ill health.

“Since the last adjourned date, today is the only day the defendant was able to leave his house,” Owonikoko said.

He reminded the court that on the last adjourned date of March 19, he filed a medical recommendation notifying the court about the medical leave given to the defendant for a period of three months to enable him recuperate.

He said that the defendant was downstairs in a vehicle inside the court premises.

But the prosecutor, Mr Rotimi Oyedepo, observed that for the defendant to make the trip to court, there was a presumption that he could attend his trial.

He lamented that the situation was foisting a delay on the proceedings.

“If the defendant can manage himself to get here, I don’t think it will be out of place for him to come into the courtroom.

“I want to plead with the defence that they should do the needful for him to appear in court. His movement from the car to this place should not be impossible,” Oyedepo said.

Following the arguments, Justice Adedayo Akintoye ordered the court registrar, Oyedepo and Owonikoko to go and verify that Tarfa was actually outside.

They did and upon their return, Oyedepo confirmed that they found Tarfa seated in the back seat of a Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV).

He said: “One part of his leg is about swollen, but he was seated. If it is not possible for him to come up, if we can get another venue that is downstairs, it might be possible to continue the trial.”

But Owonikoko said that court access was not the primary problem.

“The defendant can not sit for too long, he has to be lying down for his wound to heal properly,” the Silk said.

Ruling, Justice Adedayo said: “We will look for a court that is downstairs and check if they can accommodate us.

“We will take two weeks (a two-week adjournment) during which we will look for a venue. If we find, the registrar will communicate the venue and time to the parties and we will come for trial.”

She adjourned further proceedings until May 31.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that on March 11, the case did not go on because the judge went for an official duty.

NAN also reports that on Jan. 21, the trial did not go on because of the absence of the defendant.

Tarfa’s counsel, Owonikoko, SAN, had told the court that his client traveled outside the country for medical treatment.

However, on March 19, the defendant was in the court premises but could not enter the courtroom due to the severity of his ill health.

NAN reports that EFCC in a charge, claimed that between June 27, 2012 and Jan. 8, 2016, Tarfa paid a total of N5.3 million in several tranches into Justice Nganjiwa’s account.

He was also accused of paying into Justice Yunusa’s account, a total of N800,000 in three tranches between Feb. 9 and Nov. 30, 2015.

The SAN was equally accused of age falsification.

Upon his arraignment on March 9, 2016 and subsequent re-arraignment on Nov. 16, 2016, Tarfa pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted bail on self recognizance.

The EFCC had since closed its case, adding that Tarfa, entered his defence after the court dismissed the no-case submission he filed.

NAN also reports that Tarfa’s first witness, Deputy Chief Registrar (DCR)of the Federal High Court in Lagos, Mr Bello Okandeji, was yet to finish his cross-examination. (NAN)