xThe federal government yesterday withdrawn 6-count criminal charge against two journalists and their employer, LEADERSHIP group Ltd.
The withdrawal is sequel to notice of preliminary objection filed by the Journalists’ lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) challenging the competence of the charge and the jurisdiction of the federal high court to hear and determine the complaint.
The notice of withdrawal/discontinuance of charges dated April 30, 2013 and filed yesterday and a copy obtained by our judiciary correspondent reads:
“Take notice that the complainant, the Hon. Attorney general of the federation intends that the criminal proceedings consisting 6-counts charge against the accused persons, Tony Amokeodo, Chibuzor Ukaibe, LEADERSHIP group Ltd, be discontinued and the 6-counts against them are hereby withdrawn”.
Chief Adegboyega Awomolo (SAN), private prosecutor signed for the AGF and Minister of justice, Mohammed Bello Adoke (SAN).
In the notice of preliminary objection brought pursuant to the inherent jurisdiction of the federal high court and a copy also obtained by Nigerian Pilot, Falana said the court before Justice Adeniyi Ademola lacks the requisite jurisdiction to entertain and determine this complaint as presently constituted and consequently seek an order of the court to strike out and/ or dismissing the instant complaint for want of jurisdiction.
The lagos-based human rights activist also asked the court for such further order(s) as this Honourable Court may deem fit in the circumstances.
The grounds upon which this application is brought, according to Falana is that the charges brought against the accused persons relates only to forgery and not to any loss of revenue by the Federal Government. The Federal High Court therefore has no jurisdiction to entertain the offences.
“In the instant case, the charge brought against the accused persons discloses no loss of revenue by the Federal Government to cloth the Federal High Court with the jurisdiction to entertain same”.
“The instant complaint is limited only to forgery, for the Federal High Court to have jurisdiction over same, it most also involve or relate to loss of revenue by the Government”.
“That statement of offence does not bring the instant matter within the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court”.
It was recalled that recalled that the two Journalists, Tony Amokeodo (Group News Editor) and Chibuzor Ukaibe (Political Reporter) were arraigned last Tuesday on a 6-count charge bordering on alleged conspiracy, forgery and false publication preferred against them by the federal government.
The journalists however pleaded not guilty to the charges and consequently, the court presided by Justice Adeniyi Ademola of a federal high court, Abuja granted the two journalists bail to the tune of N500,000 each, with one surety each, who must have landed property within the jurisdiction of the trial court and must swear to affidavit of means.
The trial judge also adjourned the case to May 16, 2013 and gave the journalists lawyer three days to file their preliminary objection, while the federal government had two days to reply.