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Court dismisses suspended UNICAL professor, lawyer’s no-case submission

Court dismisses suspended UNICAL professor, lawyer’s no-case submission

A Federal High Court (FHC), Abuja, on Wednesday, dismissed the no-case submission filed by Prof. Cyril Ndifon and his lawyer, Mr. Sunny Anyanwu, against the charge by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).

Justice James Omotosho, in a ruling, held that the evidence led by the prosecution constituted a prima facie case against the duo.

Justice Omotosho, therefore, ordered Ndifon, the suspended Dean of Faculty of Law, University of Calabar (UNICAL), and Anyanwu to enter their defence.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ndifon and Anyanwu had, on Feb.19, filed a no-case submission after the ICPC closed its case.

The duo, through their lawyer, Joe Agi, SAN, said there was no evidence adduced by the prosecution on which the court could convict them, insisting that the commission failed to establish a prima facie case against them.

They, therefore, formulated three issues for determination.

These include, “whether the originating charge dated and filed 30th October, 2023 was initiated by due process of law to confer jurisdiction on the honourable court entitling the court to grant an order amending same and if the amended charge filed Jan. 22, is competent to confer jurisdiction on the court.

“Whether from the evidence adduced, a prima facie case has been made out against the defendants as to warrant them entering a defence.

“Whether the case of the prosecution was so damaged under cross examination that no reasonable tribunal will convict on it.”

But the commission, in opposition, filed a counter affidavit on Feb. 23, praying the court to dismiss the application.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Ndifon was, on Jan. 25, re-arraigned alongside Anyanwu on an amended four-count charge bordering on alleged sexual harassment and attempt to perverse the cause of justice.

Anyanwu, who is one of the lawyers in the defence, was joined in the amended charge filed on Jan. 22 by the ICPC on allegation that he called TKJ, the star witness, on her mobile telephone during the pendency of the charge against Ndifon to threatened her.

The anti-corruption lawyer, Osuobeni Akponimisingha, had, on Feb. 14, announced the closure of their case after calling four witnesses, including a female diploma student identified as TKJ.

Delivering the ruling on Wednesday, Justice Omotosho formulated two issues for determination.

These include, “whether the court has requisite jurisdiction to hear and determine the suit with respect to provisions of the Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Act, 2000.

“And whether the prosecution has made out a prima facie case against the defendant.”

He said the issue of jurisdiction is a threshold which must be decided as soon as possible.

According to him, jurisdiction is the power by which a court of law acts; it fuels the authority of the court and where it is lacking, the labour of the court will be in vain.

The judge said that though the provision of ICPC Act relied upon by Agi showed that FHC was not mentioned as a court with jurisdiction over the Act, he said that the court was bound by the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Aweto Vs. FRN(2018) where it cited provisions of ICPC Act, 2000 and Section 251of 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“The purport of the above decision is that the Federal High Court has requisite jurisdiction to entertain matters based on the Corrupt Practices Act 2000.

“This is premised on the powers of the Federal High Court under Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution vesting it with exclusive jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters involving federal agencies.

“The ICPC is a federal agency and likewise the 1st defendant is a public officer in a federal institution. All these factors makes this court a proper venue to try the offences,” he said.

On the issue of territorial jurisdiction, the judge disagreed with the defence counsel that the court was not the right venue for the trial since the cause of action arose in Cross River.

Citing Order 2 Rules 2 and 3 of the FHC (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2019, Justice Omotosho held that a suit could be commenced in any judicial divison of FHC.

On whether the ICPC had powers to investigate and prosecute offences under the Cybercrimes Act, 2015, he said the commission is a prime federal law enforcement agency with the mandate of investigating and prosecuting offences of corruption, fraud, bribery and abuse of office by public officers, going by its Act under Section 47.

“This makes it a relevant law enforcement agency with requisite powers to prosecute offenders under the Cybercrimes Prohibition Act.

“Consequently, the ICPC has powers to prosecute the Defendants,” he said.

With respect to the issue of no-case submission, the judge said a defendant could elect to rest his case on the prosecution’s case, enter his defence or make a no-case submission.

According to him, Section 303 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), 2015 makes provision for what the court should look out for in upholding or dismissing a no-case submission.

He said these include, “whether the essential element of the offence has been proved; whether there is evidence linking the defendants with the commission of the offence with which they are charged;

-Vanguard

 

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