The office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) has taken over a N2.4 billion criminal charge filed against Innoson Nigeria Limited and five others after legal battle with the Inspector General of Police who had applied to withdraw the charge from the court to enable them conclude investigation before handing over.
When the charge was called, counsel to the Inspector General of Police, D. Igbodo informed the judge that the charge was filed by IGP against the accused however, he received a petition from Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) reviewing more facts that needed to be investigated, and in view of that, IGP has directed that the case be withdrawn for proper investigation and to establish a prima facie case against the accused.
Responding to the application to withdraw the charge, counsel to the office of Attorney General, Olusola Alade informed the judge on how he advised AGF and IGP at the last adjourned date to settle the issue of taking over, and following the advice, Mr Nwodu who filed and served the charges forwarded the originals of the case file to AGF on Feb. 24, 2016 with a letter signed by CSP Cosmas Anyanwu for the commissioner of police.
Alade stated that section 174 of the 1999 constitution has given AGF the powers to take over and continue but if IGP is allowed to withdraw the charge, it then means that AGF has been denied the right of prosecution. She said if IGP feels there is other investigation to be done, it should contact the AGF as there is no statutory power stating that IGP should withdraw a case before AGF will continue. Moreover, the powers of IGP are not exclusive and urged the court to see to the arraigment of the accused persons, and for IGP to forward the original case file to them (AGF), it means, they can’t come with notice of withdrawal to obtain certified photocopy of the case file from the court.
In the vein, defence counsel for the 1st to 3rd defendants J N K Mbaduka as well as counsel to the 4th to 6th defendants, O Abiloye asked the judge to stay proceedings as appeal on the matter has been entered just like the case of Saraki vs CCT adding that the court of appeal is to determine whether there is any pending charge.
They also challenged that the court lacks jurisdiction and it should hands off from the matter.
Ruling on the arguments, Justice Saliu Saidu of the Lagos Federal High Court Ikoyi held that the AGF has the unfettered powers to take over any case at any point and AGF has filed notice of taking over dated February 17 2016 before IGP filed its withdrawal notice dated 22 February, 2016 and the law permits first come first serve; moreover the powers of AGF are clear as stated in Section 174 of 1999 constitution. He also cleared the air that the issue of Saraki is different as the accused persons have not taken their plea, so therefore, the appeal cannot stop the trial from going on. He adjourned the charge to April 5, 2016 and ordered that all the accuses persons to appear on that day.
INNOSON Nigeria limited, Innocent Chukwuma, Charles Chuku, Maximian Chukwura, Mitsui Osk Lines company And Annajekwu Sunny have being charged of unlawfully conspiring on falsifying shipping documents deposited with Guaranty Trust Bank plc to the sum of N2.4 billion facility grant.