A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos, yesterday, discharged former Managing Director of Intercontinental Bank Plc, Mr Erastus Akingbola, who is standing trial on a 26-count amended charge of financial impropriety and alleged stealing of N364 billion preferred against him by the Federal Government.
Trial judge, Justice Charles Archibong, also dismissed the charges against him.
The court further barred the prosecution from appearing before the court or another judge of the Federal High on the matter, over what it called “serious and professional incompetence” of the prosecution team made up of five Senior Advocates of Nigeria, SANs.
The court also ordered the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Mohamemd Adoke, SAN, to disband the team of the five SANs prosecuting the case for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Justice Archibong said he would forward the court’s ruling to the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee, LPPC, to sanction the senior lawyers.
When the matter came up, yesterday, prosecuting counsel, which had in a sister case against Akingbola before the Ikeja High Court, Lagos, opposed an application for stay of proceeding, told the court that it had an application for stay of proceeding.
But when the judge said the application should be argued, the prosecution said it wanted to finish its compilation of record of proceeding which it would transmit to the appellate court and then file a further affidavit before moving the application for stay of proceeding.
The judge, who was not comfortable with the prosecution’s attitude, more so, as it (prosecution) had petitioned the National Judicial Council, NJC, against the judge, though the judge was cleared, directed “the Attorney General of the Federation to disband/sack/debrief the present prosecution team, comprising of five SANs and their respective firms from handling the matter for serious abuse of court process and incompetence in their prosecution of the charges against Akingbola.”
The judge said the prosecution team was “a drain to the public purse, a fact the AGF should be mindful of now if he was not before. This prosecution team has chosen to pursue a campaign to scandalise the court, which amounts to serious and professional incompetence in the prosecution of the accused.
“This prosecution team or any part of it shall not be given further audience in this court in relation to the charges against the accused either before this presiding judge or any other judge of the Federal High Court, for the reason I have given in the foregoing.
“Furthermore, I take judicial notice that the accused (Akingbola) herein is presently facing charges before a Lagos High Court emanating from his tenure as the managing director and chief executive officer of the Intercontinental Bank Plc, the AGF may wish to regain control of this process and his untrammeled right to prosecute the accused in another charge he chooses before any appropriate court, as he can of course do so at any time of his choosing.
“Meanwhile, the prosecuting team presently employed, indulging in professional incompetence to the extreme, had been unmindful of the accused right to have the case against him clearly stated. They have been dismissive of his right to a ‘speedy’ trial, which in reality should be the credible procedure.
“I, therefore, dismiss the charges amended or otherwise for this incompetent and abusive prosecuting team. I discharge the accused accordingly and leave the AGF to consider his options. This enrolled order shall be served to the AGF and the prosecution team.
To forward record of proceeding to LLPC
“I shall be referring the conduct of the learned senior advocates that led the prosecuting team to the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee for further consideration and determination of the issues raised.
“The record of this proceeding shall be forwarded to the AGF and the LLPC and this proceeding is at its end.”
Before dismissing the charge, the court had agreed to the EFCC amending its charge against Akingbola, even though his (Akingbola) counsel had earlier argued that the prosecution was employing a piece meal approach in its prosecution of the charge to delay the matter.
The judge had noted that prosecution was not willing to commence trial, hence the several applications at the detriment of the accused right for speedy trial.
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