N2.5M: Gratification: Prosecutor’s Absence Stalls Arraignment Of National Theatre’s Directors
For the fourth time, the scheduled arraignment of five directors of National Art Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, over alleged N2.5 million gratification before a Federal High Court, Lagos, was today, aborted, following the absence of the prosecution counsel.
The five directors are, George Ufot Ukanta, Abiodun Abe, Femi Joel, Ndubuisi Nwogu and Mrs. Doris Okafor.
The five directors were charged before Justice Sule Hassan in April this year by the Special Presidential Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPPRPP), for allegedly received the sum of N500, 000, each from a contractor.
The offence according to the prosecution counsel, Dr. Colsus Ukpong, are contrary to Section 10(1) g and (2) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, and punishable under section 1(2) & and 10(1)(a) of the Recovery of the Public Property (Special Provisions) Act.
However, in June, when their arraignment was to take place over the alleged offence, it was stalled due to the appearance of another lawyer, Mr. K. Alilu, from the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, (AGF), who opposed the continued prosecution of the case by Dr. Ukpong.
Following the controversy over who should prosecute the case, Justice Hassan ordered the two lawyers to get clearance from AGF office as to who the prosecutor should be.
At the resumed hearing of the matter today, while Mr. Mohammed Adamu and S. Mudjery, representing the five directors, Mr. O. Ortwarb and M. K. Yahaya, announced their appearance as counsels watching brief for National Art Theater and SPPRPP, respectively, but there was representation for the prosecution.
Consequent upon the non appearance of prosecutor, lawyer to the defendants, Adamu, urged the court to strike out the charge against his clients.
“The defendants were here on March, April, May and now, they are here again today, but there is no prosecutor and there is no letter or information to the absence in court today.
“In view of the above, we are asking the court to strike out the charge pending when the prosecution is ready to arraign them and I promise to bring them to court”, Adamu told the court.
Adamu also told the court that one of the defendants, Mrs. Okafor, is in need of medical attention abroad and will be back to the country in late November.
Ruling on the submission of the defendants’ lawyer, Justice Hassan said: “the application made by the defence counsel for striking out the charge is premature. Though the prosecution is not in court today, but the court shall still adjourned the matter for them to have adequate time.
“The counsel holding brief for the National Art Theatre should liaise with the office of AGF to inform them of next adjourn date. Consequently, the matter is adjourned till November 29, for the arraignment of the defendants”.
The five accused persons, according to the charge marked FHC/L/282c/18, were alleged to have on January 16, 2017, obtained the sum of N500, 000 each from a commercial firm, Market Execution Solution Limited, which has a contract with the Federal Government of Nigeria, in the course of discharging their duty.
The offences are contrary to Section 10(1) g & (2) of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act, and punishable under section 1(2) & and 10(1)(a) of the Recovery of the Public Property (Special Provisions) Act.