By Innocent Anaba
A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday, held that it has the jurisdiction to entertain the charge against Mr Fola Daniels, Commissioner for Insurance and Chief Executive Officer of National Insurance Commission, NAICOM.
Daniel is charged on a six-count of criminal misrepresentation of facts and deliberate falsehood.
He was accused of deliberately making malicious misrepre-sentations against Alliance and General Insurance Company Ltd, to some agencies, with the intention of damaging the reputation of the company.
But before the ruling by the court, the prosecution had informed the court that it intends to withdraw the charge against Daniels.
Daniel’s counsel had at the last adjourned date, challenged the service of the charge on his client, arguing that the manner of service of the charge, robbed the court of jurisdiction to entertain same, since the accused was not personally served.
Trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, who noted that the matter was adjourned for ruling, said he will go ahead to deliver his ruling, despite the prosecution informing him of its plans to withdraw the charge by a letter from the Attorney General of the Federation, AGF.
Justice Abang in his ruling, held that a failure to sign the service copy of a charge cannot affect the jurisdiction of the court.
”The jurisdiction of the court does not depend on service of a charge in a criminal matter; this court can hear the charge as a matter of law.
”Lack of personal service does not affect the court’s jurisdiction, but can only affect the discharge of judicial power of court in making an enforceable order against the accused.
”Put differently if the accused is not served or properly served, the court cannot entertain proceedings against the accused in his absence, I so hold.
”If the accused was not properly served, or served at all, the appropriate thing to do, is for the court to set aside improper service upon the accused, and adjourn the matter to enable the prosecution serve him personally.”
The judge added that it will be absurd for the court to strike out or dismiss the charge on the basis of lack of proper service, adding that such order would be an improper exercise of discretion.
”Service of the charge on the accused counsel, is not service in law, there is no acknowledgment note that he received the process.
”His name, rank, signature and date are lacking in the affidavit of service, as no acknowledgment is attached therein.
”Affidavit of service of the charge on the accused dated Jan. 20, on account of my findings is hereby set aside. I so hold,” the judge said He consequently adjourned the case till May 17 for arraignment.
Defence counsel after the ruling, drew the attention of the court to the earlier remark of the prosecutor, who had informed the court of a letter seeking to withdraw the suit, as there was no basis for fixing a date for arraignment, since the intention of the letter was clear.
Justice Abang in response, pointed out that by delivering his ruling, he had become aware of the letter, adding that any other issue arising, should be presented at the next adjourned date.
The accused was further alleged to have committed the same offences against Fidelity Bond Group, by representing that the Group had infracted the Insurance Act of 1997.
The said offence is said to contravene the provisions of sections 89 (1) (2) of the Insurance Act 2003.