A Lagos High Court sitting in the Ajah area of the state has ordered a businessman, Fred Ajudua, to undergo a COVID-19 test at the Yaba Infectious Disease Centre laboratory.
Justice Josephine Oyefeso ordered that the test must be conducted in the presence of the representatives of both the prosecution and defence, and the result must be communicated to the court within 48 hours.
She gave the order after counsel to the defendant, Akinwale Kola-Taiwo, submitted that although Ajudua was present in court premises, he should not be made to enter the courtroom because he had tested positive for COVID-19.
Ajudua is being tried by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for allegedly defrauding a former Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Ishaya Bamaiyi, of $8.4 million while they were both in Kirikiri Prison in 2004 for different offences.
The defendant and his accomplices were said to have approached Bamaiyi and convinced him that he (Ajudua) would hire the legal services of Chief Afe Babalola (SAN) at a cost of $8.4 million to help him secure Bamaiyi’s release from custody.
Bamaiyi had testified in the matter and since November 2016, he has been facing cross-examination by the defence team.
The cross-examination has suffered several delays and adjournments which many attributed to the defence.
At the resumed hearing of proceedings on Tuesday, Kola-Taiwo told the court that the medical report of the defendant showed that he contracted COVID-19 for the first time on January 8 and tested negative on January 15 after he treated himself.
“I’m sincerely sorry for the absence of the defendant,” the lawyer told the court. “He is downstairs, but I don’t think he should be made to enter the court. An associate of the defendant met me and handed over these documents to me. They are medical reports of the defendant testing positive for the COVID-19 virus.
“Your lordship, the defendant was tested positive of COVID-19 for the first time on 8/01/2021. He did self-medication and he was tested negative on 15/01/2021. The defendant has underlining health issues. He has been living with one kidney for a couple of years now sir.
“Sometimes around October 14 this year, while he was in his hometown in Delta State, the defendant also contacted COVID-19. The defendant has been medicating ever since, but the condition is deteriorating
“The latest test was done three days ago on 3/12/21, and the result came out positive again. I was told that the defendant flew in from Delta State last night. We will be praying your lordship for an adjournment to give room for the defendant to be treated for the virus.”
In his response, the lead prosecution counsel for the EFCC, Seidu Atteh, asked the defence team to make all the documents available to the prosecution so they could conduct their own investigation on the authenticity of the documents.
Atteh said in the alternative, the court should invoke Section 235 of the newly passed Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State, 2014, which states that the defendant can be tried in absentia.
“The defendant should make available the documents to us so that we can look into it before we make our comment,” he said. “In the alternative, the court should invoke S. 235 of ACJL, 2014, because the defendant cannot continue to manipulate the court.”
Justice Oyefeso, while delivering a bench ruling, ordered the defendant to be tested at the laboratory of the Yaba Infectious Disease Centre, in the presence of both the prosecution and defence.
She also ordered the defence team to file its application and attach all the medical reports of the defendant before adjourning the matter until February 15, 2022, for the continuation of the trial.