A Lagos High Court sitting at Tafawa Balewa Square has condemned the lawyer representing BRT driver Andrew Nice Ominikoron’s continued absence from court.
Justice Sherifat Sonaike ordered the defendant to hire a lawyer to represent him in court.
The order was issued by the judge in the absence of the defendant’s counsel, Abayomi Omotubora.
Abayomi Omotubora was missing on June 7, 9, and 30. On the 30th, he was represented by a junior counsel.
Justice Sonaike described Mr Omotubora’s continuous absence as “appalling and unbecoming of the noble profession.”
The Judge in her ruling said: “I have listened to the Attorney General and considering the fact of the charge, I shall be directing at this stage that the defendant should avail himself a counsel to continue to conduct his trial on the next adjourned date.
“If he is unable to avail himself a lawyer on the next adjourned date, I will direct that the Legal Aid Council should take up his case.
“The defendant’s counsel Omotubora has been absent from court on several occasions.
“This is unbecoming of a lawyer of this noble profession, this particular counsel has failed to come to court to conduct his trial and this court strongly condemns it,” the judge said.
Omotubora has been absent from court for five consecutive times, but on the last adjourned date on June 30, the court ordered that the junior counsel from his chamber should conduct the defence.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Thursday, Omotubora was also not in court.
The Lagos Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Moyosore Onigbanjo, who announced his appearance for the prosecution told the court that the matter was for continuation of trial.
After announcing his appearance, there was no appearance for the defendant.
Onigbanjo said: “The matter was adjourned till today on 30th June 2022, in the presence of counsel for the defence. This morning again the defence is not represented; I would be urging the court to ask the defendant for the whereabouts of his counsel, before I make any necessary application”.
However when the court asked the defendant the whereabouts of his counsel, Ominikoron said: “I was not able to reach him, I am not aware that my counsel will not be in court today”.
The AG then told the court that the prosecution was ready to go on with its case.
He informed the court that there were fives witnesses in court, to give evidence – two bank officers who were subpoenaed, an investigative police officer, IPO and the team leader both from Panti were also in court to testify, as well as the deceased’s brother.
The AG said: “My lord in view of the fact that the defendant is unable to defend himself, my application is for the court to appoint a lawyer who will represent the defendant either from the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) or from the Legal Aid (LAC) Council, to continue the defence of the defendant.
“It is also clear that the defendant’s counsel is aware of this date and did not deem it fit to inform the court that he would not be in court today. I want the court to take note before appointing OPD or LAC. This is a capital offence and the defence counsel’s conduct is just to frustrate this case”.
In view of the AG’s submission, Justice Sonaike asked the defendant if he can defend himself. Ominikoron replied that he was ready to defend himself.
But Onigbanjo said: “Even though the defendant says he can defend himself, I will say the court should tread with caution. I would urge the court to appoint OPD or LAC, to take over the defence so as to guarantee a fair trial”.
Consequently Justice Sonaike adjourned the case to September 28 and 29 for continuation of trial.
Omininikoron is facing four counts of conspiracy, rape, and murder of Ayanwola contrary to and punishable under sections 411, 223, 260 and 165 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.
On the last adjourned date, a junior lawyer, P.O Idogun, from Omotubora’s chamber informed the court that Omotubora though recovered from his illness had to travel for an interview in Abuja, while seeking an adjournment for the continuation of trial.
He said, “The lead counsel was in Abuja for an interview and it is not yet concluded. He called me this morning to hurriedly come here and attend this matter. This is not to disrespect this court. Our application is to pray for an adjournment before the court.
“I have not appeared in this matter before. I know I am duty-bound to continue but I appeal before the court that the matter will proceed on the next adjourned date because I might not properly and effectively do it today,” he added.
The Attorney-General of the state, Moyosore Onigbanjo, leading the prosecution, objected to the application citing the matter had been adjourned for the third time in a month at the instance of the defense counsel. He said the interview should not supersede the criminal case.