Justice Nicholas Oweibo of a Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday, noted that the Federal Government has shown signs of not being law-abiding and has no respect for the court.
The judge made the pronouncement, while striking out the firearm possession charge against the suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele.
The charge was brought against Emefiele by Department of State Services, DSS.
Justice Oweibo, struck out the charge for want of diligent prosecution, noting that the Federal Governnment had shown signs of not being law-abiding and had no respect for the court.
Meanwhile, the scheduled arraignment of Emefiele, on a fresh 20-count charge, was, yesterday, stalled following the absence of one of the defendants in the case.
Though Emefiele was brought to court by DSS, who are still holding on to him before an Abuja High Court sitting at Maitama, to enter his plea to the fresh charge against him, the court was told by the DSS that the 2nd defendant, Saadat Yaro, was unavailable.
Court strikes out firearms charge
Justice Oweibo, who struck out the charge for want of diligent prosecution, following the withdrawal application made by the Director of Public Prosecution of the Ministry of Justice, Mohammed Abubakar.
At the last adjourned date, the DPP made an oral application to the court to withdraw the charges against Emefiele.
He argued that the application was informed by emerging facts and circumstances that need further investigations and urged the court to grant the application. Abubakar said the application was pursuant to Sections 174 (1) (c) (2) and 108 (2) (4)
But Emefiele’s counsel, Mr. Joseph Daudu, SAN, opposed the prosecution’s oral application, arguing that because the government was in disobedience of the court’s order granting Emefiele bail, its application could not be taken.
He contended that there was no application before the court and not disputing the facts that the state can withdraw any charge before the court against any person.
He cited Section 174 (3) of the Constitution that the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF, has power that can be devolved to any of its officers.
“We have an application that the AGF has flouted the court order which says the respondent/ defendant should be remanded in prison custody granted but they are not obeying the order.
“The court granted the order of substituted service to be published in three National dailies and after they brought an application of stay of execution of the bail and we say unless they obey that order section 174 (1) can only be by nolle prosequi.
“It must be in writing, I have never heard of the withdrawal of a case without a nolle prosequi for the interest of justice we need to prevent abuse of legal processes.
“I urge the court to reject the application and order the learned DPP to go on with today’s business,” he said.
Ruling, yesterday, Justice Oweibo noted that the application by the Director of Public Prosecution, DPP, seeking the withdrawal of the case was found in Section 108 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, ACJA, which empowers him to withdraw the charge and there was no requirement for the application to be in writing.
Granting the application, the judge wondered what good it would do to the defence if the court does not allow the withdrawal.
The court, said: “The prosecution has shown signs that they are not law-abiding and have no respect for the court. The court cannot force them. What good will it be for the defendant who is in custody?
Of what benefit will it be to keep the file in the court’s docket?
“I believe the proper thing is to allow them to withdraw the charge. They can simply abandon it and the court will still have to strike it out for lack of diligent prosecution. The application to withdraw is hereby granted,” Justice Oweibo said.
Fresh arraignment over alleged N6.9bn fraud stalled
Meanwhile, the planned arraignment of Emefiele, on a fresh 20-count charge, was, yesterday stalled due to the absence of one of the defendants in the case.
The FG told the court that the 2nd defendant, Saadat Yaro, was unavailable, though Emefiele was brought to the Abuja High Court, to enter his plea in the fresh charge against him.
The Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation, DPPF, Mr. Mohammed Abubakar, who is prosecuting the case for the Federal Government, told Justice Hamza Muazu that Mrs. Yaro took ill and was not able to make it to the court.
He applied for a new date, a request that was not opposed by Emefiele’s lawyer, Mr. Akinlolu Kehinde, SAN.
Consequently, Justice Muazu adjourned the case till August 23.
Immediately the matter was adjourned, armed operatives of DSS, whisked Emefiele away from the court.