A former Enugu State governor Dr. Chimaroke Nnamani yesterday told the Federal High Court in Lagos that he is unfit to stand trial.
He said he is suffering from a “chronic” heart problem, having undergone surgery and is yet to recover.
The development again stalled his trial by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The commission, last March 7, re-arraigned before Justice Mohammed Yunusa on 105 counts of money laundering and economic crimes involving about N4.5billion state funds.
He was charged along with his former aide, Sunday Anyaogu, and six firms – Rainbownet Nig. Ltd, Hillgate Nig Ltd, Cosmos FM, Capital City Automobile Nig Ltd, Renaissance University Teaching Hospital and Mea Mater Elizabeth High School.
Part of the alleged laundered money was meant for some local government areas, which was allegedly transferred to Nnamani’s bank account in the United States.
The crime was allegedly committed while Nnamani, also a former Senator, was governor between 1999 and 2007.
The charge was filed seven years ago, but trial is yet to begin as the case has suffered delays due to several adjournments.
The case has also passed through four different judges due to transfers and retirements.
Yesterday, Nnamani’s lawyer, Mr. Oluyele Delano (SAN), said the principle of fair hearing requires that his client must well enough to defend himself.
“The first accused person is seriously ill. He has undergone a quadruple bypass, an open heart surgery, and while there was relative success with regard to the surgery, he has had to embark on a slow, tedious recovery process.
“Unfortunately, he recently suffered a setback to his health in that he continues to suffer chronic chest pains, which the doctors suspect that it may be that his heart is rejecting the pacemaker that has been installed there.
“My Lord, a dead man cannot be tried. I humbly crave the indulgence of the court to give us more time to be in a position to vigorously defend the allegations against us.
“The doctrine of fair hearing acknowledges the need for the accused person not be prejudiced in his ability to defend the accusations against him on account of ill health,” Delano said.
EFCC’s lawyer Mr. Kelvin Uzozie did not oppose the request for an adjournment, but said he did not think Nnamani’s health problem is serious enough to stop his trial.
He said: “Illness per se is not a ground for stalling trial. The question is, is the accused person capable of understanding the proceedings?
Ruling, Justice Yunusa said Nnamani should be given the opportunity to defend himself.
“A criminal trial is a rigorous activity that requires a strong person,” he said.
The judge said he observed that Nnamani cannot comfortably stand in the dock for 20 minutes, adding that the court has no medical facility to treat him should his case worsen.
“It’s not the law to cause more harm to an accused person,” he said, adding the Nnamani needs “time to heal” and access to “adequate medical facilities to treat himself.”
Justice Yunusa adjourned till November 3 for trial.