The ongoing trial of a Nigerian couple accused of holding a 39-year-old fellow citizen in servitude in the United Kingdom for 24 years became a battle between two expert witnesses, when it resumed at Harrow Crown Court on Thursday.
It was also a day Judge Arran called the Crown – government – prosecutor, Roger Smart to order, making the latter know the buck doesn’t stop at his table.
The trial saw a Nigerian – based lawyer give expert witness via video link to the courtroom.
After sending the 12-man jury out on a short break, Arran was furious with the prosecutor, saying: “It’s not for the prosecutor to start arguing the jury’s case. Mr Smart, this must stop.”
He also told him, “don’t argue with me,” and this while the prosecution’s expert witness, Dr Elizabeth Hales, was being cross examined by Emma Akuwudike, defence counsel for senior nursing sister, Mrs Antan Edet.
Cambridge and London School of Economics educated, Hales, a social anthropologist, had been called by Smart to give her expert opinion on child adoption in Nigerian society. She told the court that her report would be based on what she had read from Nigerian academics as her PhD was on Sudan and other African cultures.
The defence, in their part, called a Nigerian-based practising lawyer, Dr Chima Umezuruike, also a PhD holder. Umezuruike, who, though, not flaunting his long list of qualifications, but like Hales, also got some listed and apart from having practised in the UK before relocating to Nigeria, is a member of the Expert Witness Institute.
Both experts were led in giving their testimonies and also cross -examined by the opposite camps.
In her report, Hales, who focused her argument on customary adoption, saying since that was what Mrs Edet did when the claimant, Ofonime Sunday Inuk, became a member of the former’s family at the adoption ceremony performed in Calabar, on December 19,1988.
Relying on the work she had read from two or three Nigerian academics, which she quoted, she argued that the adoption will not only confer on Inuk the status of eldest of the Edets’ three sons- including their two biological Emmanuel Jr and Anthony- , but also confer on the claimant entitlement to the family’s inheritance.
Giving his opinion through video link, Umezuruike who had also among others given expert witness at the Southwark Crown Court in the case involving former Delta State governor, Chief James Ibori, submitted that customary adoption is in vogue on Nigeria and that there is usually no documentation to confer the rights that UK adopted children have.
Cross examining Hales, Akuwudike asked: “You based your report on what you’ve read and researched?”
She did admitted it, adding however that she had never lived in Nigeria nor witnessed any Nigerian customary ceremony.
Umezuruike in his evidence , said he had never witnessed any statutory adoption process in the Lagos High Court where he had practised for the last five years. He added that it is very unlikely that the Edets would have given Ofonime the right to use their name if he was regarded as a houseboy.