The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Mohammed Adoke (SAN), has asked an Ikeja High Court to discontinue a N247.746,097.31 fraud case against five former officials of Lagos Trade Fair Complex.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had charged the defendants, Bassey Dominic, Okafor Ngozi Eunice, Francis Datla, Okocha Ajele Lazarus and Kolo Banabas, before an Ikeja High Court for offences bordering on conspiracy and stealing.
The defendants, who were arraigned in 2013 before Justice Kudirat Jose, had pleaded not guilty to the charges preferred against them.
The anti-graft commission had alleged that the defendants committed the offences on various dates between 2009 and 2012 by allegedly stealing the money belonging to the management of Lagos International Trade Fair.
The offence, according to EFCC, ran contrary to the provisions of Sections 516 and 396 of the Criminal Code Cap 617 Vol 2 of Lagos State Nigeria, 2003.
At the last hearing, the alleged victim of the fraud, Professor Chika Nick Eze, had narrated how the alleged crime was perpetuated by the defendants, who he claimed kept collecting rents even after the complex had been concessioned to his company, Public Nigeria Limited, a real estate management and development company. And the matter was adjourned for defence to cross-examine him.
But there was a twist at the resumed hearing of the matter on Friday, as Mr. Adoke through a Senior State Counsel from his chamber, Mr. D. E. Kaswe, informed the court that his chambers had filed a notice of discontinuance of the case before the court.
Citing Section 174 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Kaswe stated: "In the exercise of his powers, the office of the Attorney General of the Federation has entered a nolle proseque in this matter. I therefore urge Your Lordship to deem the notice as proper and the court should discontinue the suit."
Responding to the development, EFCC counsel, Mr. A. B. C. Oziokwo informed the court that the commission was neither aware of the presence of the counsel from AGF office nor the application he brought to court.
He said nothing was served on the commission, adding that the case files were still with the EFCC and expressed readiness to proceed with the matter.
"We are aware that the AGF has power to enter a nolle proseque but is it limited to federal enactments. The matter before the court is stealing and it is only the Lagos State Attorney General that can enter a nolle proseque in this matter.", he said.
"Section 211 (a) of the 1999 Constitution is clear with respect to this matter. It is only the Lagos AG and not the AGF that can enter nolle proseque with respect to this suit. The EFCC has the fiat of Lagos State AG to prosecute this matter and that fiat has not been withdrawn", Oziokwo stated.