Some of the indicted officials of the Supreme Court fingered to have collected money through fraudulent means are in serious trouble as the Federal Government hires a top international criminal prosecutor. The Federal Government has hired a former International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor, Charles Adeogun-Philips, to lead its team of lawyers to prosecute the Supreme Court Registrar and others for alleged N2.2b fraud.
The arraignment of the three senior officials of the apex court was stalled by Justice Abba Mohammed of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court in Jabi, Abuja because one of the Supreme Court officials, Muhammed Sharif, was absent.
The Federal Government on November 3 filed a nine-count charge against Chief Registrar Ahmed Saleh, Sharif and Rilwanu Lawal (who are both officials of the court’s Account Department).
The officials were charged with conspiracy and criminal breach of trust for allegedly diverting N2.2billion belonging to the apex court and receiving gratification as public officers. The three officials are also accused of receiving N74.4m gratification from Willysdave Ltd., Welcon Nig. Ltd., Dean Musa Nig. Ltd., Ababia Ventures Ltd. and MBR Computers Ltd. between 2009 and 2016.
On November 8, Justice Mohammed granted a request by prosecution lawyer Hajara Yusuf for time to produce the three defendants in court for arraignment, following which the court adjourned till November 17 for arraignment.
Saleh and Lawal were in court. Sharif was absent. Garba Tetengi (SAN), who announced appearance for Sharif, said he was ill and was on admission at the hospital. He sought an adjournment, which other defence lawyers – Abdulhakeem Mustapha – SAN – (for Saleh) and I.K Sanusi – SAN (for Lawal) did not object.
The Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federation (DPPF), Mohammed Umar, who led the prosecution team, later yielded proceedings to Adeogun-Philips, who spoke for the prosecution.
Umar said the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN), had in exercising his powers under Section 174(1) of the Constitution, elected to engage an international lawyer to conduct prosecution in the case.
Adeogun-Philips said he was unhappy that Tetengi could not provide any document to show that Sharif was on admission in the hospital. Justice Mohammed rescheduled the arraignment for December 15.