A Federal High Court in Kano has ordered the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to produce Abdulkareem Abdussalam Zaura (popularly known as AA Zaura), the senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Kano central in for arraignment in his fraud-related case.
The presiding judge, Justice Mohammad Nasiru Yinusa gave the order on Thursday after the prosecution again informed the court that the defendant was absent in court as he was at the last two sittings.
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AA Zaura was accused of defrauding a Kuwaiti national of $1.3million, and was billed for arraignment after the Court of Appeal quashed the earlier discharge and acquittal judgment of the court and ordered his retrial.
During the court sitting on Thursday, his counsel, Ibrahim Waru told the court that the matter was adjourned for the adoption of written addresses in respect of whether or not the defendant must be present in court before an application challenging the jurisdiction of the court can be entertained.
But responding, prosecution counsel, Abdulkareem Arogha told the court that the said application was not ripe for hearing because the defendant was not in court.
“We are making efforts to bring the defendant to court,” he said, while urging the court to decline to hear the application in the absence of the defendant.
Delivering a bench ruling, Justice Yinusa held that the position of the court was that the defendant should be produced and that where that has not been done, the court has the duty to insist that due process be followed.
The judge further held that the issue of appearance in a criminal matter is a constitutional issue which stipulated that the starting point of a criminal trial is an arraignment, which infers that the defendant must be placed in the dock, and the charge must be read to him after which the defendant then take his plea.
“There is no order from the Appeal Court or the Supreme Court that restrained the court from performing its duty in this case,” the judge held, adding that the position of the law is that the defendant must be in court for the commencement of the trial before any application can be taken.
“Having said that, the court can not allow the adoption of the addresses without compliance to the process,” the judge ruled. He thereafter adjourned the matter to December 5 for the arraignment of the defendant, while ordering the prosecution to ensure the defendant is produced.
Daily Trust reports that at the previous sitting, the EFCC had told the court that it could not ascertain the whereabouts of the defendant.
Speaking to journalists at the end of the proceeding, the defendant’s counsel, Ibrahim Waru said his client would study the ruling of the court and then decide whether or not to appeal against it.
While the prosecution counsel refused to speak, a member of the prosecution team confided in our reporter that the agency may in a matter of days consider the arrest of the APC senatorial candidate if the agency cannot be assured of his voluntary presence in court at the next adjourned date.