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FG claims Justice Ngwuta’s prosecutor was fired over ‘greed’

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The federal government says Charles Adeogun-Philips, the lead prosecutor in its suit against Supreme Court judge, Justice Sylvester Nwali Ngwuta, was sacked because he wanted to be ‘greedy’.

Adeogun-Philips, hired by the National Prosecution Coordination Committee, NPCC, chaired by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had on Thursday announced his withdrawal from the suit he is handling for government before Justice John Tsoho.

Some reports had suggested he resgined over the dropping of charges against Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Ahmed Gambo Saleh, and two other officials, Muhammad Abdulrahman Sharif and Rilwanu Lawal, by the Federal Government against his consent.

But on Sunday, government explained that it withdrew the brief from Adeogun-Philips because while he was in court in Abuja prosecuting a case of corruption for the government, he was also in a Lagos court handling a brief in an ongoing suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

The suit involves Dauda Lawal, alleged to have laundered $40 million into Sterling Bank on behalf of former Minister of Petroleum, Diezani Allison-Madueke, as part of the $153.31 million she was alleged to have siphoned from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC.

In a statement on Sunday, Comrade Salihu Othman Isah, the Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to Malami, said Adeogun-Philips was sacked and not that he withdrew his services from the prosecution of Justice Ngwuta.

Isah, who is also the Head of Communication and Public Affairs of the NPCC, revealed in the statement that Adeogun-Philips’ sack was conveyed to him vide a letter titled: “Withdrawal of your name as a member of Team 16 of the National Prosecution Team handling charges No. FHC/ABJ/C/232/16-FRN vs Sylvester N. Ngwuta.” dated February 6, 2016 and signed by Sylvester O. Imhanobe, the Special Assistant to the President on Research and Special Projects, who also doubles as Secretary of the Committee.

Adeogun-Philips was said to have acknowledged receipt of the letter through an email message dated February 8, 2017, which he sent to the Committee’s Secretary and copied to Muhammed Umar Etsu, the Director of Public Prosecution of the Federation.

He said in the email: “Your letter of 6 February 2017, is received with great relief. I wish you and/or your colleagues at the NPCC, success in the continued prosecution of your ‘high profile’ cases. With my very best wishes.”

The full letter to him by the NPCC reads: “I regret to inform you that Abubakar Malami, SAN, the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (HAGF) has withdrawn your membership of the National Prosecution Team.

“Consequently, you can no longer lead Team 16 engaged to prosecute the Charge No. FHC/ABJ/C/232/16-FRN vs S.N. Ngwuta. Furthermore, the fiat issued to you in respect of the case you presently handle is withdrawn.

“The Chief Accountant confirmed to me that you have been paid first instalment fees which cover services till the close of the prosecution’s case. Please return to me all properties of the Ministry/NPCC in your possession, if any.

“The HAGF also directed that I wish you well in all your future endeavour.”

Isah said further: “Adeogun-Philips was indeed fired because he wanted to be greedy by thinking that he could handle briefs from conflicting interests and when the NPCC uncovered this unprofessional conduct, he was asked to leave”.

Isah said it was wrong to have attributed the sack of Adeogun-Philips to the withdrawal of the case against the Supreme Court Chief Registrar.

Meanwhile, the other members of Team 16 of the NPCC comprising Hajara Yusuf, Dr. M. Lawal Yusufari and Ibrahim Waru remain intact as only its leader is affected in the current debriefing.

“They will carry on with the case pending when a replacement is engaged to lead the team”, he said.

Hajara Yusuf, a Principal State Counsel in the DPPF’s office, is to lead the team in the meantime.

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