By Kelechi Ogunleye
A Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday frowned at the refusal of four officials of the Nigeria Football Federal (NFF) to appear in court over alleged 8.4 million dollars and N4 billion fraud case.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu had on July 1, issued a warrant of arrest for the four men following their repeated refusal to appear in court to answer to the fraud case charges against them.
The Federal Government had through the Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property charged them over alleged misappropriation of the sums of 8.4 million dollars and N4 billion belonging to the NFF.
The five officials are NFF President, Amaju Pinnick’s, NFF Secretary, Sunusi Mohammed; the 1st Vice-President, Seyi Akinwumi; the 2nd Vice-President, Shehu Dikko and an Executive member, Yusuff Fresh, as the 1st to 5th respondents respectively.
Pinnick was exempted from the ordered arrest due to his official roles as a member of the Confederation of African Football’s organising committee at the African Cup of Nation in Egypt.
Justice Ojukwu said that their duty was to be in court when ordered as the charges against them before the court had not been cancelled.
She said that when an order was given, it was expected that such order be obeyed otherwise matters from such agencies will no longer be entertained in her court.
“Nobody is bigger than the law,” she said.
Counsel to the defendants, Mohammed Katu, said that the respondents were absent because the president had instructed that the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) took over the case from the office of Special Presidential Investigation Panel and had ordered all activities be before the AGF.
He said that the AGF had earlier called the attention of the respondents to his office and in view of the recent development he believed the AGF will do justice to prosecute the matter.
“During dependency of this matter, the same complainants wrote another petition in respect of the same facts against the defendant and on the basis of which they sent to ICPC, EFCC.
“We wrote a letter to the AGF that it would constitute an abuse of processes and the administration of law for same persons as complainants , using the same facts in a petition against the defendants in various investigative agencies.
“The AGF deemed it necessary that the matter before the Court be brought back to him, the matter before EFCC and ICPC should also be brought back to him so that he will look at them and find out then consolidate them with the view of giving it one meaning,” he said.
Justice Ojukwu said that the defendants had no reason to appear before any agency thereby constituting a parallel hearing in disobedience to the court when the matter was already before a judge.
She said that if files had been handed over to the AGF and he wanted to make further investigations, they could appear before him after the matter was no longer in court.
Mr Abubakar Musa, Counsel to AGF, said the AG was just coming into the matter today as he was not aware of what the special panel had done.
“But now according to the instruction of the president, the AG is taking over the matter and all the files are meant to be in transition because I cannot tell you now if they have deposited the file to the AGF as he has not told me that.
“I don’t blame the court, the AGF is the chief law officer of the state and he is bound to ensure that the federal republic of Nigeria obeys court orders.
“But he is not aware of this order and by so saying we can’t say he is bound now to bring the defendants before the court.
“The files have to be reviewed, if there is sufficient evidence that warrants prosecution,but the decision now is for the AG to take,” he said.
Justice Ojukwu adjourned the matter to Oct. 5 for arraignment and ordered that all affected parties be in court.