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AGF, presidential panel fight over prosecution of suspects

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High Court

There was a hot exchange of words yesterday at the Federal high court, Lagos, as the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), and the Special Presidential Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPPRPP), fought in the open court over the prosecution of five directors of National Art Theatre, Iganmu Lagos, charged with N500, 000 alleged gratification.

The exchange of words started when the matter was called for the plea of the suspects to be taken and two lawyers, Dr. Celsius Ukpong from the SPPRPP and Mr. A. K. Alilu, from the office of AGF, announced their appearance as prosecutors in the same matter.

The five directors are George Ufot Ukanta, Abiodun Abe, Femi Joel, Ndubuisi Nwogu and Mrs. Doris Okafor, wife of a retired army General.

Ukpong and Alilu separately stood up and announced appearance as prosecutors.

Alilu told the court that he has the AGF’s directive to take over the matter. He consequently asked for a short adjournment to enable him take over case file and study it.

Surprised by Alilu’s announcement and submission, Ukpong rose to his feet and told the court to discountenance Alilu’s appearance.

Ukpong told the court that he did not believe AGF instructed him and described Alilu’s appearance as an ambush.

He said: “We are in the same office, he knows where to get us. They have all the time to inform us officially. We are not private counsel. If they have special interest in this matter, they should let us know.

“I filed this charge as a staff of SPPRPP, created under section 1(1) of the Recovery of Public Properties Special Provisions Act, 2004 and I filed this charge for the AGF”.

But Alilu said: “I don’t know why the counsel is taking it personal. I am from the AGF’s office, department of Public Prosecution. We are not opposed to anybody being tried or charged, but our position is that due process must be followed.

“We are aware that SPPRPP filed this charge, but the AGF has the power to take over any matter at any stage, by provisions of section 174 (1) of the 1999 of Constitution.”

After listening to the submissions of the two counsels, the trial judge, Justice Muslim Hassan, ruled in favour of Alilu, saying section 174 (1) of the constitution gave the AGF the power to institute case against any person or persons as well as to take over case at any stage or discontinue any case against any person or persons.

The matter has been adjourned till June 13, for the arraignment of all defendants.


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AGFCelsius UkpongSPPRPP
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