By Ogochukwu Nwaokafor
Justice Mohammed Madugu of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory sitting in Bwari, Abuja, has closed a case filed by the Nigerian Police against the National Chairman of All the Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, Chief Edozie Njoku and Chukwuemeka Nwoga, over a purported allegation of conspiracy to alter a judgment of the Supreme Court delivered by Justice Mary Peter Odili (rtd).
Justice Madugu noted that the defendants were charged to court on November 22, 2022 by the police, pointing out that the Prosecution Counsel, Rinasomte Ezekiel, had made the court to see the urgency of the matter, and assured that he would close his case within two weeks.
However, the court expressed dismay that since November 22, 2022, the Prosecution Counsel had only called two witnesses, with several adjournments.
However, upon resumption of sitting, the police lawyer informed the presiding judge that his remaining witnesses said they would not appear before the court.
‘My lord, the witnesses told me to inform the court of their pending application before the Chief Judge of the Federal Capital Territory High Court, for the matter to be transferred to another court.
‘They also served me with a letter dated July 10, containing their prayers before the Chief Judge of the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory,’ Ezekiel stated.
When asked by the judge about his opinion on the development, Ezekiel said that everybody had freedom of expression and that he aligned himself with the application of the witnesses.
‘Based on the application, I enjoin this court to grant an adjournment pending the time the CJ will take action on the application for transfer of the case to another judge,’ the police lawyer said.
When the Court queried when the application was served on him, Ezekiel said it was served on his office on July 11.
Reacting, the Defence Counsel, Panam Ntui, in opposition to the application for an adjournment, said the court had indulged the prosecution for so long a time, describing some of their excuses as untenable and lacking any iota of probative value.
‘This latest antic is aimed at delaying proceedings, and shouldn’t be allowed.
‘It is on record that from November 2022, when the defendants were arraigned, the prosecution said in two weeks it would be closing its case,’ the Judge said.
Ntui argued that a criminal case was of public interest and not for self-aggrandizement of the Prosecution Counsel, adding that the Prosecution Counsel had on four different occasions pleaded for an adjournment, including the stand down of that day.
‘Even when the prosecution asked for five minutes, the Court granted over an hour stand down for the prosecution to call its remaining witnesses.
‘This Court still has an inherent jurisdiction to go on with this matter, except at a time, transfer to another court is endorsed by the CJ.
‘We therefore ask the court to close the case of the prosecution, having failed to call its witnesses and we are ready to open our defence,’ the Defence Counsel pleaded the court.
However, in his ruling, the trial judge was minded to grant the request of the defence by closing the case of the prosecution due to lack of diligent prosecution.
The Court noted that since November 22, 2022, the police lawyer had only called two witnesses with four adjournments at the instance of the Prosecution Counsel.
Having failed to obey the Court order to produce his remaining witnesses, the judge closed the case of the prosecution and ordered the defence to open its case.
Meanwhile, the Defence Counsel called Chief Edozie Njoku, the National Chairman of APGA, to give evidence in chief.
Testifying, Chief Njoku told the Court, upon examination by the defence Counsel, that what led to the purported allegation by police was a slip on the part of the Supreme Court, which the Court had subsequently corrected in its judgment on March 24, 2023.
After examination, the police counsel could not cross examine Chief Njoku. The matter has been adjourned to September 11.
Reacting, Njoku told newsmen that the police had found out the truth and were looking for a way out of the suit.
‘How can you say you are prosecuting someone over an allegation, which the Supreme Court has termed a slip and has subsequently corrected, Njoku queried.
‘I am not afraid of anybody. I am poised to pursue this case to a logical conclusion.
‘Of course, the Supreme Court has addressed what they alleged to be forgery and I don’t know what else the police is looking for,’ Njoku stated.