Justice Lateefa Okunnu of a Lagos State High Court sitting in Ikeja, on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 refused to accept as exhibit, minutes of the meeting of board members of the former Bank PHB, now Keystone Bank. The court turned down the tendering of the exhibit as it re- opened the trial of the N27billion theft charge against the former managing director, Mr Francis Atuche, his wife Elizabeth and Ugo Anyanwu.
At the resumed trial of the case on Wednesday, counsel to the 1st and 2nd defendants, Anthony Idigbe, SAN, presented Prof. Pat Utomi as its first witness in the case and prayed the court to allow him present exhibit P206 to Utomi for his comments but the prosecuting counsel, Kemi Pinhero, SAN, vehemently objected to the presentation of the documents to Utomi, “The document, exhibit P206, was admitted through David Nkpe, an operative of the EFCC, only on an intent and not for any other purpose. The defence team had objected to the admissibility of the document, their objection was taken and your Lordship admitted the document for that purpose then. Now, they want to use it for another purpose, no way, my lord the defence must suffer for their consequences. The June 5, 2012 and June 25, 2012 order of my lordship still stands and we must stay by the order in the interest of law,” Pinhero said.
In his reaction, Idigbe told the court that “we submit my lord that, exhibit P206 is defendant’s document not prosecution document. We further submit that it tendered it under the provision of Section 235 of the Evidence Act to contradict the witness then. The court admitted the document then, when PW 10 David Nkpe was able to identify the signature on the documents. My lord, we are bound by law, here is a board member, he is here to verify the document, we urge the court to allow the witness to give evidence on Exhibit P206 which is the minutes of the board meeting in which Utomi was present”.
Justice Okunnu in her ruling said, “I am still bound by my order of June 5, and 25, 2012 and as a result, the court dismissed the usage of Exhibit P206 by the defence’’.
However, Idigbe presented the same exhibit P206’s photocopy and true certified copy to the witness to verify, this led to another hot argument and Justice Okunnu ruled against the usage of this secondary document and rejected it.
Utomi, in another submission, told the court that late President Umaru Yar’Adua was responsible for Atuche’s problems with the EFCC. “Decision was taken at the villa to go after bank PHB, we were asked to remove Atuche, we refused that was why Bank PHB was taken over,” Utomi said.
Justice Okuunu later adjourned the matter till September 16 and 17, 2013 for continuation of trial.