Alleged non-declaration of assets: Court dismisses charges against Ekweremadu

The Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday, struck out charges bordering on non-declaration of assets instituted against Sen. Ike Ekweremadu, former Deputy Senate President, by the defunct Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP).Justice Binta Nyako dismissed the case for want of diligent prosecution.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the dissolved SPIP panel led by Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla had, in 2018, instituted the case marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/62/2018 against Ekweremadu, alleging that the serving senator refused and neglected to declare his assets upon being served the panel’s “notice to declare.”The office of the Attorney General for the Federation (AGF) took over the case and other suits being handled by the panel upon a presidential directive dissolving it in 2019.At the resumed hearing on Monday, the prosecuting counsel from the office of the AGF, Mr. Pius Akutah, told the court that the former lawyer handling the case for the panel had disappeared with the case file.    

Akutah pleaded with the judge to order the former counsel to release the file to the AGF’s office.But Ekweremadu’s lawyer, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, urged the judge to strike out the case.“In the alternative, My Lord can adjourn the case sine die (indefinitely),” Awomolo said.In her ruling, Justice Nyako dismissed the prosecution’s request and struck out the matter.“You are Attorney General (referring to the lawyer as representing the AGF). You should know what to do.“You should not be waiting for me to make an order against an individual.

“So, as it is today, you don’t know the case against the defendant since you don’t have the file. I am going to strike out the case. When you are ready, you can come back.“The case is hereby struck out for want of diligent prosecution. The prosecution is allowed to come back whenever they are ready to proceed with the case,” she ruled.

NAN recalls that the SPIP had filed two counts  against Ekweremadu on May 11, 2018, alleging that he failed to declare to it, nine landed assets in Abuja; two in London, the United Kingdom; eight in Dubai, the United Arab Emirate; and three in Florida, the United States of America.The defunct panel alleged that the offences which he allegedly committed were contrary to and punishable under section 3(3)(1)(a) of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provision) Act 2004.Meanwhile, Justice Nyako adjourned the hearing of an application filed by the defunct panel seeking an interim forfeiture of the alleged undeclared assets till April 28. (NAN)