By Yemi Oyeyemi, Abuja
A drama erupted at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday when a Judge of the Court, Justice James Omotosho handed a police lawyer, Ibrahim Mohammed, over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for filing a criminal charge against Senator Stella Adaeze Oduah.
Meanwhile, the former Minister of Aviation, has said that the fresh criminal charges brought against her by the police in the name of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) was fraudulent.
Though she claimed not to be aware of the charges, the former Minister explained that it was a gender political violence against her.
The police lawyer is to be investigated for filing the 8-count criminal charges against the former Minister of Aviation in the name of EFCC without the authority of the anti-graft agency.
Although, the embattled lawyer who left the EFCC since November last year admitted to filing the controversial charges in error with the name of the anti-graft agency, the Judge nonetheless ordered that the genuiness of his errors must be established through investigation.
Justice Omotosho had queried the police lawyer on whether the anti-graft agency was in the know of the charges since it was being prosecuted by the Police.
Senator Oduah was expected to be arraigned before the court on eight count charge bordering on alleged complicity surrounding her National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) certificate and fraudulently receiving money from the Federal Government.
However, when the matter was called Stella Oduah was not in court and the Judge sought to know why she was absent in court.
Responding, Mohammed, who introduced himself as a lawyer with the Police Legal Department, Force Headquarters, Abuja, told the court that the defendant was not in court because she has not been served with the charge.
According to him, Senator Oduah had told them she was not feeling well when invited to come for the charge.
Reacting, the court queried why the charge is coming in the name of EFCC when the prosecutor is from the Police.
The police lawyer who suddenly became incoherent in the answering questions from the Judge admitted that he left EFCC since November 2022 at Benin office for the Force Headquarters on redeployment.
He also admitted filing the charges on June 22 this year in the name of EFCC, seven months after leaving the Police, but that it was done in error.
Justice Omotoso who was not pleased with the claim of error ordered his Registrar to bring the head of police unit at the Federal High Court into the court room.
The Judge then ordered the police personnel to lead the police lawyer to the EFCC headquarters and hand him over to EFCC operatives for investigation on the genuiness of the criminal charges.
Further hearing in the matter was shifted to July 18 when the anti-graft agency must have completed its investigation and reported back.
Mrs Oduah who recently represented Anambra North in the Senate insisted that apart from not been served with the purported charge, she was never subjected to any kind of investigation by the Nigeria Police Force or any other security agency in the country.
Addressing a press conference on her behalf, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. James Ogwu Onoja SAN, maintained that Senator Oduah was not invited to make any statement by any agency of government before the spurious charges were made by the duo of Ochogwu Ogbe and Ibrahim Mohammed, who claimed to be lawyers with the Police.
The lawyer, while faulting the charges said that they have no proof of evidence bearing Mrs Oduah’s statement as required by law while no single witness from National Youth Service Corps NYSC was listed to give evidence.
Besides, Onoja claimed that the two Police lawyers responsible for the filing of the charges did so without affixing their lawyer practicing seals while the address where the purported charge emanated indicated EFCC’s office at number 1, Court Road, Benin City, Edo State.
From the findings, the senior lawyer claimed that it could not yet be ascertained whether the police or the EFCC was behind the charge.
He further explained that EFCC does not have the powers to prosecute any offence under the Penal Code, adding that the charge did not alleged any offence under the EFCC’s Act but Criminal Code.
The lawyer asserted that his team had been to EFCC’s headquarters for investigation on the faceless charges and that the EFCC denied knowledge of the charge.
“The spurious allegations against our clients of not participating in NYSC has been dismissed by the Supreme Court in her favour. This country has had enough” he said.
Insisting that prosecutorial authorities should not be for hire by political hirelings, he added that the fresh charge against his client is a violation of the Code of Conduct for prosecutors as issued by the Federal Ministry of Justice and punishable under Article 7, part B of the Code.
The senior lawyer, thanked Justice James Omotosho for ordering the immediate arrest of the lawyer that issued the charge and appeared for prosecution on Tuesday, noting that, the action of the Judge is a confirmation that the court was not comfortable with all anomalies contained on the face of the charge.
He then vowed to issue a petition to the Inspector General of Police IGP for investigation and to call to order those bringing image of the police into disrepute while another petition would be forwarded to EFCC to investigate impersonation and abuse of its prosecutorial powers.
Similarly, Onoja further vowed to report the matter of filing documents contrary to practice direction on fixing of seals of legal practitioners to the Chief Registrar of the Federal High Court, adding that upon identifying the lawyers involved, they would be dragged before Legal Practitioners Disciplinary Committee in addition to facing court action for malicious prosecution of Mrs Oduah.
“This is a new political dispensation which has promised adherence to rule of law and accountability, we need a breath of fresh air”, the senior lawyer said.