Withdrawal or Discontinuance of charges, when a cause is ready for trial, it may be withdrawn by either Claimant or Defendant upon producing to the Court Registrar, a consent in writing signed by the parties and thereupon a Judge shall strike out the matter against all or any of the Defendants or withdraw or discontinue any part or parts of his claim. Therefore, where proceedings have been struck out upon a Claimant’s withdrawal or discontinuance under the provisions of the relevant law, no subsequent claim shall be filed by him on the same or substantially the same facts until the terms imposed on him by the Judge have been fully complied with.
In the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Lagos Judicial Division, Lagos in the matter of Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) against a former Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi; Capt. Ezekiel Agaba; Ekene Nwakuche; Felix Bob-Nabena; Capt. Warredi Enisouh; Governor Juan; Ugo Frederick; Timi Alari; Al-kenzo Ltd., and Penniel Engineering Services Ltd on a 40 count charge bordering on fraud.
The 9 accused persons were first arraigned before Hon. Justice Saliu Saidu of the Federal High Court, Lagos Judicial Division, Lagos and had all pleaded not guilty to the charges and granted bail by the Hon. Court on the day of arraignment.
Hon. Justice Saidu of the Federal High Court, Lagos Judicial Division, was transferred from Lagos Judicial Division to Port Harcourt Judicial Division, Port Harcourt. The case file was therefore transferred to the Deputy Chief Registrar for re-assignment and the case file was transfer to Hon. Justice Ayokunle Faji of the Federal High Court, Lagos Judicial Division, Lagos.
In the charge sheet, the accused persons were alleged to have committed the offences between December 2013 and July 2015. They were alleged to have converted over N3.4 billion belonging to NIMASA to their personal uses. The offences contravened Sections 15 (1), (3), and 18 (a) of the Money Laundering (prohibition) Amendment Act., 2012 which states as follows:
15(1) Money laundering is prohibited in Nigeria.
(3) A person who contravenes the provisions of subsection (2) of this section is liable on conviction to a term of not less than 7years but not more than 14years imprisonment
18 A person who-
(a) conspires with, aids, abets or counsels any other person to commit an offence
The prosecuting counsel, Mr Festus Afeyiodion, informed the court of an amended 22 count charge, in which the names of four accused persons had been withdrawn. He urged the court to strike out the names of the four accused persons, while a fresh plea by the remaining accused should be taken.
The Court after hearing all the necessary applications, the court held and struck out the names of the four accused persons charged with N3.4 billion fraud alongside a former Director General of NIMASA, Patrick Akpolobokemi.
The four accused persons withdrawn from the charges are: Governor Amechee Juan, Ugo Frederick, Timi Alari, and Penniel Engineering Services Limited.
The accused persons name that was struck out, they were arraigned before Justice Saliu Saidu and had all pleaded not guilty to the charges and granted bail by the court.
However, following the transfer of Justice Saidu from Lagos to the Port Harcourt division of the court, the case was re-assigned to Justice Ayokunle Faji. On Friday 25th February, 2017, the prosecuting counsel, Mr Festus Afeyiodion, informed the court of an amended 22 count charge, in which the names of four accused had been withdrawn.
The counsel to Governor Amechee Juan, Mr Ige Asemudara, expressed mixed feeling while reacting to the withdrawal. Counsel informed the court that his client had been tormented, embarrassed, and emotionally tortured for the past two years on account of the charges. He said that the damages done to Governor Amechee Juan’s career and his family, were monumental, but gave all the glory to God.
Consequently, Justice Ayokunle Faji granted the prayers of the prosecution, and struck out the names of the four accused. Meanwhile, another defence counsel, Mr E.D. Onyeike, raised an objection to the appearance of the prosecutor (Afeyiodion) on the grounds that he could not prosecute without a fiat.
Case Adjourned till March 17, 2017 for hearing of the applications on whether or not the prosecutor had a right to prosecute.