LAGOS – A Federal High Court in Lagos, on Thursday said it would begin the trial of a farmer, Yesiru Onajobi, charged with incest, if he failed to brief a counsel.
Justice Chukwujekwu Aneke said the court would no longer adjourn the suit at the instance of the accused, but will proceed with trial on Jan. 28, 2015, if he did not secure legal representation.
Onajobi, 50, a resident at Bogije Street, Ibeju-Lekki, in Lagos State, is standing trial on a two-count charge of having unlaw carnal knowledge of his 14-year-old daughter
He is being prosecuted by the National Agency for the Prohibition of Trafficking in Persons (NAPTIP).
At the last hearing, the matter could not proceed due to the absence of a legal representative for the accused.
The prosecutor, Mrs Kehinde Falade, had informed the court of the withdrawal of Mr Austin Akpomretha, the defence counsel from the Legal Aid Council, who was initially representing the accused.
Falade said that the defence counsel had informed her that he was no longer in the service of the council, which necessitated his withdrawal from the case.
Consequently, Justice Aneke, had ordered the accused to secure another counsel to represent him in the suit.
On resumption of the case on Thursday, the accused still had no legal representation, which infuriated the judge.
Consequently, Aneke ordered the accused to get a lawyer before the next adjourned date, failing which trial would proceed.
The judge then adjourned the case to Jan. 28, 2015 for trial.
NAN reports that the accused was re-arraigned on July 8, 2013, before Justice Aneke, following the transfer of the initial trial judge, Justice Barbara Molokwu.
He had pleaded not guilty to the charge, but Aneke had ordered his remand at the Ikoyi prisons, pending his bail application.
In the charge, the accused was alleged to have committed the offence in 2010.
The prosecutor had told the court that after the death of his wife, the accused had engaged in habitual sexual assault on his only daughter in his custody.
She said that the accused intimidated and forcefully had carnal knowledge of the teenager, who eventually became pregnant for him.
The offence is said to contravene the provisions of Sections 13 (1) and 18 (a) of the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition) Law Enforcement Act, 2003.
NAN recalls that the defence counsel had argued that the prosecution had no authority to prefer the charge against the accused.
He had argued that NAPTIP ought to have obtained the fiat of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), before prosecuting the case.
He had, therefore, objected to the jurisdiction of the court to hear and determine the charge against the accused.
The prosecutor, in response, had, however, in a counter-affidavit, urged the court to dismiss the submission of the defence counsel for lack merit.
Justice Aneke had in a decision, overruled the submission of the defence, describing it as baseless, and assumed jurisdiction in the suit. (NAN)