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Atuche: Court orders witnesses recalled

29 January 2013, 16:03

Lagos - A Lagos High Court has ordered the recall of two prosecution witnesses who had earlier testified in the trial of a former Managing Director of Bank PHB, Francis Atuche.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Atuche is standing trial before Justice Lateefat Okunnu over an alleged stealing of N25.7 billion belonging to the bank, now Key Stone Bank.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) charged Atuche along with his wife, Elizabeth, and a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu.

Okunnu ordered the recall of the men on Monday while ruling on an application filed on Atuche’s behalf by his counsel, Chief Anthony Idigbe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).

She said that the witnesses, Mr Diamond Uju (PW 1), and Mrs Elizabeth Ebi (PW3), were to be recalled for Idigbe to further cross-examine them.

Okunnu, however, directed that the witnesses should only be cross-examined over documents the defence claimed were in their possession.

The judge said that they should not be cross-examined over their written statements to the EFCC, noting that the defence had had the opportunity to cross-examine them but failed to do so.

NAN recalls that both witnesses had earlier testified that their companies were granted a N10.9 billion loan without their knowledge.

They claimed that the companies; Integrated Services Ltd., Futureview Financial Services Ltd., Tradjeck Ltd., and Extra Oil Ltd., were granted the loan without any formal request.

Idigbe, in the application, faulted the witnesses’ testimonies, arguing that the defence possessed a board resolution which contradicted their claims.

He said that recalling the witnesses was pivotal to the case of the defence, and would be in the interest of justice.

The EFCC’s counsel, Mr Kemi Pinheiro, urged the court to dismiss the application, arguing that it was premature and an abuse of court process.

Pinheiro also argued that the power given to the court to recall a witness could only be exercised at its instance and only be after the closure of the prosecution's case.

The matter was adjourned to Jan.30 for continuation of the trial.

NAN

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