Court strikes out charges against Ekweremadu over assets declaration
NEWS DIGEST – A Federal High Court in Abuja has struck out a charge of non-declaration of assets brought against a former Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu by the now dIsbanded Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP) for the Recovery of Public Property.
The SPIP, led by Okoi Obono-Obla had in 2018 lodged the charge, marked FHC/ABJ/CR/62/2018 alleging among others, that Ekweremadu,“without reasonable excuse, refused and neglected to declare his assets upon being served a notice to declare.”
When President Muhammadu Buhari disbanded the panel and sacked its head, the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) took over all the case started by the panel, one of which in the case against Ekweremadu.
At the mention of the case on Monday, Ekweremadu, who was in court, entered the dock.
The prosecuting lawyer, Pius Akutah (an official of the Federal Ministry of Justice), claimed that the lawyer, who was handling the case while the SPIP was still intact has allegedly disappeared with the case file.
Akutah urged the court to order the lawyer (whose name he did not mention) to release the case file to the AGF office to enable it proceed with the prosecution.
Responding, Ekweremadu’s lawyer, Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN) noted that the prosecution lawyer’s position did not reflect a party that is diligent in the handling of its case.
Awomolo then urged the court to reject the prosecution;s request, strike out the charge and free his client.
Ruling, Justice Binta Nyako rejected Akutah’s request, struck out the charge and said the prosecution was at liberty to refile when it wishes.
Justice Nyako said: “You are the Attorney General (the judge said and she noted that the prosecuting lawyer represented the AGF), you should know what to do. You should not be waiting for me to make an order against an individual.
“So, as it is today, you don’t know the case against the defendant since you don’t have the file. I am going to strike out the case, when you are ready you can come back.
“The case is hereby struck out for want of diligent prosecution. The prosecution is allowed to come back whenever they are ready to proceed with the case.”