Prosecutor’s absence stalls arraignment of 5 Nat. Art Theatre’s directors over gratification

For the fourth time, the purported arraignment of five directors of National Art Theatre, Iganmu, Lagos, over alleged gratification before a Lagos Federal High Court, Lagos, today, September 25 failed to hold following the absence of the prosecution counsel.

The five directors: George Ufot Ukanta, Abiodun Abe, Femi Joel, Ndubuisi Nwogu and Mrs. Doris Okafor.

The five directors were charged before Justice Sule Hassan led-Court, sometimes in April by the the  Special Presidential Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPPRPP), for allegedly received the sum of N500, 000, each from a contractor.

The offences 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, sometimes in June, when their arraignment was to take place, pleas to be taken over the alleged offence, was stalled due to the appearance of another lawyer, Mr. K. Alilu, from the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), who slugged it out with Dr. Ukpong, as a prosecutor of the case.

Following the controversy over the prosecution counsel, Justice Hassan ordered the two to get clearance from AGF about who the prosecutor should be.

At the resumed hearing of the case today, while Mr. Mohammed Adamu led S. Mudjery, as counsels to the five directors, Mr. O. Ortwarb and M. K. Yahaya, announced their appearance as counsels watching brief for National Art Theater and SPPRPP, respectively, while nobody announce appearance for the prosecution.

Following non appearance of prosecutor, lawyer to the defendants, Mr. 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 today but there is no prosecutor and there is no letter to his 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 hinted the court that one of the defendants, Mrs. Okafor, is in need of medical attention abroad, and she will be back to the country in late November.

Ruling on this 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 there court shall still adjourned the matter.

“The counsel holding brief for the National Art Theatre should liaise with the office of AGF to inform them of next adjourn day. 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, 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.   

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