Lawyer’s absence stalls trial of Cynthia Osokogu’s alleged killers

Cynthia Osokogu

Cynthia OsokoguThe trial of alleged killers of late Cynthia Osokogu, on Friday suffered another setback before a Lagos High Court in Igbosere, Lagos, following the absence of a defence counsel.

The four accused, Okwumo Nwabufo, Olisaeloka Ezike, Orji Osita, and Ezike Nonso, were charged by Lagos State Government for conspiracy in masterminding Osokogu death.

They had however pleaded not guilty to the charge.

The trial judge, Justice Olabisi Akinlade, had granted bail to the first two accused while the third and fourth where ordered to be remanded in custody.

The suit which was fixed for continuation of trial on Friday could not go on due to the absence of counsel to the third accused, Mr Michael Ayaji.

Ayaji, who had earlier sent a letter to the court to stand down the matter till 12. 30 p.m., eventually informed one of the lawyers that he would no longer be present in court.

Dissatisfied with the development, the trial judge called for an amendment of Legal Practitioners Act, so as to impose costs and punitive measure on counsel who failed to conduct their cases diligently.

She observed that some of the defence counsel in the case had on different occasions given excuses for not coming to court, and the court had accused them of not giving the matter the attention it required.

Olabisi further noted that the Attorney-General (AG) of Lagos State, Mr Ade Ipaye, had been in court since 9 a.m., and was not even informed of the request to stand the matter down.

“Defence counsel could not even send a letter or an SMS to the Chief Law Officer of the State.

“The office of the AG has so many cases to attend to and so, should he be treated in this manner,” she said.

The judge also expressed displeasure with defence counsel for not considering the plight of his client, who had been in custody, adding that an accused was presumed innocent until proven guilty.

“When you talk of delay in criminal trial, lawyers would accuse the court of delaying proceedings, who is delaying this case now?

“I think it is time for the office of the AG to amend the Legal Practitioners Act so that costs would be awarded against counsels who fail to appear and conduct their cases diligently,’’ she said.

The court further observed that all the lead counsels in the matter had juniors in their chambers who could attend on their behalf, adding that the court and the office of the AG should be accorded respect.

She however, adjourned the matter to Oct. 31 for the defence to open its case.

Cynthia was murdered in a hotel room at Cosmilla Hotel, Lake View Estate, Festac Town, in Lagos, and her valuables dispossessed.

The offence was said to have contravened the provisions of sections 221, 249, 285 and 327 of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State.