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DPP’s report stalls ‘N167m fraud charge’

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dpp’s-report-stalls-‘n167m-fraud-charge’

 

 Robert Egbe

 

A Lagos High Court in Igbosere has fixed August 26 for a Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) report on a N167, 886, 591,60 fraud charge against an Oyo State council official Badmus Adesina and a lawyer, Ibukunoluwa Konu.

Justice O. Ogunjobi adjourned Adesina and Konu’s arraignment to enable the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice determine whether or not to take over prosecution of the case.

The defendants are accused by the police of forging documents and stealing N167, 886, 591, 60 from the Estate of the late Godfrey Kwashie Konu.

They were scheduled for arraignment on May 19, but the judge adjourned till July 28 following the absence of first defendant Adesina, an Ibadan resident.

He noted that the adjournment was also in keeping with the COVID-19 regulations of the Lagos State Judiciary.

At the commencement of proceedings on Wednesday, the court acknowledged a letter from an Assistant Director, Directorate of Public Prosecution (DPP) on the AG’s behalf seeking an adjournment.

Prosecution counsel E. O. Asogwa moved the court to proceed with the adjournment.

He argued among others that “the purport of the (AG’s) letter is not known to law. The letter from the contents is asking for a stay of proceedings in this case.

“I say that this is contrary to the provisions of Section 273 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) of Lagos State, 2015 which, in summary, prohibits the stay of criminal proceedings before any High court or magistrates court.”

He also noted that the AG is constitutionally empowered to “take over and continue” a case, but that was not the purport of the letter.

Peters O. Agboola for first defendant and Folabi Kuti for second defendant opposed him.

Agboola said: “All this letter has asked for is an adjournment and not a stay. To that extent, I submit that the provisions of ACJL cited is inapplicable. The AG is not before this court for stay of proceedings. If he was asking for stay of proceedings, he would not be asking for a month away.”

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In a bench ruling, the judge upheld the defence’s prayer, noting among others that the AG will consider public interest, in the exercise of his powers.

Justice Ogunjobi held: “I have listened to the submission of the prosecution and defence counsel. Prosecution and defence are agreed that the AG has power pursuant to Section 211 of the 1999 Constitution to take over criminal prosecution in court.

“The purpose of the letter from the office of the AG is for an adjournment to enable the AG consider legal advice and determine whether or not to take over prosecution. “Arraignment today will not serve any useful purpose if the AG decides to take over and not prosecute. Arraignment will then only result in waste of judicial time.

“I shall therefore grant the requested adjournment in the interest of justice.”

Earlier the judge declined the defence’s invitation to caution the media over reportage of the proceedings.

“At the end of the day, we find out that most of the time, what is reported in the press is irrelevant to the determination by a judge who is going to consider the facts.”

According to the January 24 four-count charge filed by the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (FCIID) Ikoyi,, Adesina, 59, and Konu, 44, conspired and committed the offences of stealing, forgery and making documents without authority between 2009 and 2019.

The charge alleged that the defendants stole N167, 886, 591, 60 from the Estate of the late Godfrey Kwashie Konu.

It stated that within the same period between Ibadan and Lagos, both defendants “did forge a letter of attestation of marriage certificate purportedly issued from Ibadan South East Local Government of Oyo State and a letter captioned ‘Marriage Certificate’ issued from a Magistrate Court in Ibadan…”

It further claimed that both men, “with intent to defraud, without lawful authority or excuse make,” signed or executed the forged letter of attestation of Marriage Certificate.

According to the Police, the offences contravened and were punishable under Sections 280, 287, 363, 365, 370 and 411 of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015.

Adesina and Konu have not been arraigned and are yet to take their plea.

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