An aide of the embattled CEO of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, Dr Erastus Akingbola has issued a statement reacting to insinuations that Justice Charles Archibong was retired because he discharged Akingbola. The “persecution” of Akingbola was also decried in the statement signed by Charles Nwajagu, Public Affairs Counsel to Mr Akingbola. Below is a full text of the statement:
“Our attention has been drawn to the recent National Judicial Council’s decision suspending two judges. We would not have been joining issues on this were it not for sponsored insinuations of possible inducement being inferred in the media against our client, a defendant who stood trial before one of the Judges.
It is necessary at this point for purposes of clarity to recap for the records the trial of our client as handled by Justice Charles Archibong (one of the affected judges) in Suit No. FHC/L/443C/2009 between the Federal Republic of Nigeria (complainant) and Dr. Erastus B. O. Akingbola (defendant).
On February 18, 2011, after several adjournments, objection was raised to the Prosecution’s application to amend the charge for the 3rd time: that it was a ploy to overreach the defence and waste the time of the court as it appeared the Prosecution had no serious case to pursue. After listening to the arguments, the Judge adjourned for ruling.
On the adjourned date, April 2, 2012, the Judge ruled in favour of the Prosecution, that they could amend the charges as many times as possible since he had not given his judgment. However, the Judge warned that he was allowing the amendment for the last time in order for prosecution to move forward.
The Judge then ordered that Dr. Akingbola’s plea should be taken as he was already in the dock. But surprisingly, the Prosecution counsel raised an objection saying that he was not ready to continue with the case as he had filed an appeal on another related case. The Judge however insisted that Dr. Akingbola’s plea should be taken but the Prosecution bluntly refused to continue. At this point, the Judge took a brief recess and returned to his chamber.
On resumption, the Judge dismissed the charge and discharged our client. Since the prosecution was not ready to accede or comply with a simple directive from the Judge that the defendant should take his plea; the game plan was that if the plea was not taken, the EFCC and their sponsors would have the opportunity to take him back to their cell and detain him indefinitely.
From the foregoing, it is apparent that the Prosecution’s refusal to allow the plea of the defendant to be taken necessitated the Judge’s ruling.
All the campaign of calumny against Dr. Akingbola is being choreographed by the same group that stole Intercontinental Bank PLC, wrote off their loans that was well collaterised and “shared” the bank’s assets among their cronies. They are still desperately trying to blackmail our client against continuing with the court cases he had instituted against them, in order to redeem the bank.
It is clear that the facts were being distorted in a desperate move to insinuate that Justice Archibong was induced to discharge our client on that particular day. Is it not curious that it is the Prosecution that will stop the defendant from taking his plea? How would the interest of the Prosecution have been jeopardised if the plea was taken on that day? On the contrary, if the Judge had sentenced our client to a hundred years imprisonment that day, his persecutors would have hailed the Judge as a great fighter of corruption.
What has become of the universally acclaimed and accepted legal proposition that any accused facing a criminal trial is presumed innocent until his guilt is established and proved by the prosecution?
Never has there been so much media hype in Nigeria on any criminal trial before the law courts like the ones involving our client. Not even the treasonable felony trial of the early 60s. The crudity of the agenda of the prosecution reached a crescendo on February 25, 2013 when Dr. Akingbola voluntarily went to the EFCC office in Lagos to sign the register in fulfilment of part of his bail conditions which he has been enjoying for the past 30 months. In order to accomplish an orchestrated mischief, the EFCC detained him and immediately issued a press statement to the effect that he has been rearrested preparatory to his arraignment in court the following day. So, why and how did he suddenly become such a security risk to be clamped into a cell overnight? Why was a simple court summons not issued to our client’s lawyers to appear in court? The reason for the EFCC action is just to portray Dr. Akingbola as a dangerous criminal that Justice Archibong let off the hook and the efficient EFCC team had recaptured and taken him to court under armed guard to face justice.
Both the print and electronic media were awash with this story immediately from that evening and on the following day. Also out of mischief, EFCC attempted to link their planned arrest of our client with the NJC’s decision retiring Justice Archibong and the approval of the NJC’s recommendation by the Federal Government.
Now, while this drama is going on unabated and, a Nigerian who started a bank from a humble beginning and nurtured it to the Olympian heights where over 20,000 Nigerians were employed is being vilified and crucified, fellow Nigerians are either enjoying the drama and media fables or looking the other way. The fact remains that not even the bitterest enemies and foes of Dr. Akingbola can deny the fact that God used him to plant, build and nurture the bank.
Today, it is Dr. Akingbola. Who says it will not be the turn of his tormentors and persecutors tomorrow? When shall we learn from history”.