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Drama As Lawyer Tackles Judge For Adjourning Suspended UNICAL Professor’s Bail Plea

There was a mild drama at the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court on Friday after Justice James Omotosho adjourned the hearing of a bail application of Cyril Ndifon, the suspended dean of the faculty of law, University of Calabar (UNICAL), until January 31.

The adjournment followed counsel for the prosecution, Osuobeni Akponimisingha’s objection that he was just being served with Mr Ndifon’s further affidavit and would need time to study the process for a fair hearing.

The development did not go well with Solomon Umoh, SAN, who appeared for Mr Ndifon and Sunny Anyanwu, the co-defendant.

The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) is prosecuting Mr Ndifon and Mr Anyanwu (first and second defendants) on allegations bordering on sexual harassment and threatening the star witness in the case.

Mr Anyanwu, who is one of the lawyers in the defence, was joined in the amended charge filed on January 22 by the ICPC on the allegation that he called one of the prosecution witnesses on her mobile telephone during the pendency of the charge against Mr Ndifon to threaten her.

Mr Omotosho had, on Thursday, ordered the two defendants to be remanded in Kuje Correctional Centre pending the hearing of their bail applications.

The judge, who adjourned the matter until today (Friday), held that the bail request would be taken after the trial.

When the matter was called on Friday for a continuation, Mr Umoh prayed the court to allow the hearing of his client’s bail applications before the trial, but Mr Akponimisingha opposed it, saying that based on the previous day’s directive of the court, the trial should be taken first.

The ICPC lawyer argued further that he was just being served with the latest application filed on Thursday by Mr Umoh and would need time to study it before deciding whether to respond.

But Mr Umoh told the court that Mr Akponimisingha was being economical with the truth because he was aware of the medical report attached to the application already and that the instant application was just an adjunct.

He said when the judge admitted Mr Ndifon to temporary bail on January 10 to enable him to go for glaucoma surgery slated for January 11, it took them about a week to perfect the bail before the professor could proceed.

Mr Umoh said the ICPC had verified the latest documents attached to the bail application in Exhibit PF3.

“So why will the counsel seek an adjournment?” he asked.

Besides, Mr Umoh argued that Mr Akponimisingha had no right to file any other process after the one he filed “because this is the final process.”

He insisted that bail is a constitutional right that should not be taken away from his clients, even though they had been subjected to a media trial.

The senior lawyer urged the court to overrule Mr Akponimisingha and proceed to hear the bail plea.

Mr Umoh said if his application was not granted, “we ask that the interim bail be extended because he (Ndifon) has an imminent irreversible eye defect.”

However, the anti-graft commission’s lawyer disagreed with Mr Umoh.

He argued that the exhibit (Exhibit PF3) that the learner silk cited that they verified was in response to the medical report dated December 29, 2023, and not the one dated January 19.

Mr Akponimisingha said that contrary to Mr Umoh’s claim, the commission had not verified the latest exhibit (Exhibit A).

“I am just seeing this document for the first time. A fair hearing demands that I be allowed to see it, whether I respond to it or not,” he said.

In his ruling, Mr Omotosho said that, since the further affidavit filed on January 25 by Mr Umoh was served on Mr Akponimisingha in the courtroom, “it is fair hearing that the lawyer be given time to respond.”

He said since an accelerated hearing had been granted in the matter, the court would give a short adjournment.

Consequently, the judge adjourned the matter until January 31 for a hearing of the bail applications.

However, shortly after the adjournment, Mr Umoh stood up to address the court, saying the bail application he brought was in line with the constitution.

Mr Umoh said Mr Ndifon did not flout the interim bail granted by the court; hence, there is a need to admit him to bail or extend the earlier one granted him.

Responding, Mr Omotosho said the earlier bail was granted because there were facts before the court that Mr Ndifon was going for medical surgery on a scheduled date.

He said even though they could not conclude on the bail application, the defendant was allowed to go but did not undergo surgery in the long run.

Mr Omotosho said the facts about the present application were not presented to the court.

“Even on Wednesday, January 31, I have about 19 cases, but I conceded to ensure that the bail application is taken,” the judge explained politely.

Mr Umoh then prayed the court to take Mr Anyanwu’s bail, saying, “The bail of the second defendant is independent of the first defendant. I will always thank you.”

Mr Umoh consistently addressed the court using the word “You,” and the judge corrected him, saying, “Learner Silk, you are 13 years old as a senior advocate. You don’t address the court using ‘you’.”

“Don’t judge me with this because I am at my weakest point today,” Mr Umoh responded.


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