As Jonathan clears way for his return
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJAâ€”RESPITE finally came the way of the pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, yesterday, as the Federal Government, formally dropped criminal charges filed against him before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, CCT.
The tribunal struck out the four-count criminal charges against Ribadu at its resumed hearing on the matter, following an application filed by the Attorney General of the Federation, urging it to discontinue further hearing on the matter.
The AGF also prayed the court to vacate the warrant of arrest it earlier issued against him.
The charges were dropped on a day counsel to the embattled anti-corruption czar, Femi Falana, intimated journalists that his client has concluded plans to return to the country in the coming weeks.
Falana who was fielding questions from journalists immediately after the proceedings, said nothing inhibited Ribadu from taking up an appointment under the Goodluck Jonathan-led administration.
He refuted insinuations from some quarters that the Acting President was actually instrumental to the withdrawal of the criminal charges against Ribadu.
AGF files nolle prosequi
The Special Assistant to the AGF on Litigation, Dr. Joshua Olakayode Olatoke, who filed the application to withdraw the charges against Ribadu, had insisted that â€œthe Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, vested on the AGF the power of nolle prosequi, to discontinue any criminal prosecution at any stage of the case, so far judgment has not been entered.â€
Olatoke told the court that it was within this prerogative that the erstwhile Attorney-General of the Federation, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode, SAN, before the dissolution of the Executive Council of the Federation by Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, reviewed the case against Ribadu and directed that it be withdrawn.
It would be recalled that Ribadu was dragged to the tribunal by former Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Michael Kaase Aondoakaa, over his alleged failure to declare his personal assets while in office as the EFCC boss.
Though the criminal action commenced on January 13, 2009, Ribadu, however, refusedÂ Â to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal, while alleging threats to his life.
He had, however, instructed his lawyers from his London residence, to file a preliminary objection on his behalf, wherein he challenged the jurisdiction of the Justice Constance Momoh led panel to prosecute him in absentia.
Following his refusal to return to the country for trial, Justice Momoh on November 20, 2009, ordered his immediate apprehension.
That order was, however, vacated yesterday by a new panel, headed by Justice Muritala Sani Adebayo.
Justice Adebayo was appointed by Ag. President Jonathan to take over from Justice Momoh at the tribunal.
While arguing the application for withdrawal, Falana, insisted that there was no valid case against his client.
He said: â€œWe are not opposing the issue of withdrawal because at the sitting of this tribunal on December 4, 2009, the assets declaration forms of the accused person were tendered by us and the tribunal graciously admitted them.
â€œSince my learned friend has examined the file and found it necessary to withdraw the charge, we are not opposing.â€
Consequently, the two-man panel of justices led by Justice Adebayo, in their short ruling, held that â€œwhile section 24(i) of the CCB Act is sufficient to enable us accede to this request; section 174(c) of the 1999 constitution confers extensive powers on the AGF to proceed or discontinue a criminal trial before judgment is delivered.
â€œIn the circumstance, we believe that this application is proper and in order with the laws of our land. Therefore, this suit is hereby struck-out and the warrant of arrest issued against the accused person on November 20, 2009, is hereby discharged.â€
Among friends of Ribadu who besieged the court room, yesterday, to show solidarity with their pal, was the embattled former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.