Court rejects preferential treatment for Babalakin
An Ikeja High Court, Lagos, on Monday rejected the request by the embattled Bi- Courtney Chairman, Dr. Wale Babalakin to be allowed to sit in the bar or adjacent the dock as a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission on January 17 arraigned Babalakin and four others, before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo, for allegedly conspiring and laundering N4.7 billion for the former governor of Delta State, James Ibori.
Standing trial on a 27 count charge with Babalakin are one Alex Okoh; construction giants, Stabilini Visioni Limited, Bi-Courtney Limited, and Renix Nigeria Limited.
Counsel to EFCC, Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), had told the court that the defendants between May and December 2006 conspired to commit felony to wit: corruptly confering benefit on account of public action contrary to Section 98A (1) (a) of the Criminal Code Law, Cap. C17, Laws of Lagos State 2003.
At the resumed hearing on Monday, Babalakin, who was granted bail on self recognition, prayed the court to allow him sit outside the dock since he is an inner member of the bar.
Lead counsel to the defendants, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), who sought the relief prior to the commencement of the case, cited Section 210 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State, 2011.
He argued that Babalakin, as a SAN, “a lawyer of repute”, and under the law, as an accused may be allowed to “sit adjacent to the dock.”
His submission was however countered by Jacobs, who insisted that the court must be careful, especially because the action will amount to an injustice against the second defendant, Okoh.
Jacobs said, “We have to be careful, justice must be seen to have been done, not on the grounds of status of the defendant. If that application is granted, what about the other defendant, who is a banker.
“The inner bar or the outer bar cannot be adjacent to the dock. That section only applies to when there is no dock. In construing the law, what is most important is justice.”
In his ruling on the preferential treatment to Babalakin, Onigbanjo declined the request and insisted that he could only allow the defendant to be seated inside the dock.
“Section 210 of the ACJ only applies to a witness on summons. It does not apply to this situation. The defendants have taken their plea. They are not here on summons,” said Onigbanjo.
Monday’s proceedings were scheduled for hearing on three applications filed by the defendants, each of them represented by a team of defence lawyers.