By Yemi Adebowale
The Director of Public Prosecutions of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. M.S Diri, on Monday withdrew the N2.45bn fraud charges instituted against a former governor of Bayelsa State, Mr. Timipre Sylva PUNCH newspaper is reporting.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission had on May 18, 2015 re-arraigned Sylva on six counts of fraud before Justice Evoh Chukwu of a Federal High Court in Abuja.
But the EFCC, represented by its Assistant Director, Legal and Prosecution, Mr. J.O Ojogbane, said the anti-graft agency was not part of the decision to withdraw the charges.
Following the withdrawal of the former prosecuting counsel, Mr. Festus Keyamo, from the case on May 25, 2015, it was handed over to the DPP.
BREAKING TIMES had reported how Festus Keyamo was pressurized by Buhari to hands off the prosecution of Timi Sylva’s case.
But instead of the DPP appearing in court on Monday for commencement of trial, he issued a fiat to a private lawyer, O.J Nnadi (SAN), to continue prosecuting the case.
Nnadi, during the Monday’s proceedings tendered the freshly issued fiat before the court and told the judge that the EFCC had instructed him to withdraw the suit. He then urged the court to strike out the case.
He said, “We are ready for trial, but following the instruction this morning, EFCC directed that this charge be withdrawn.
“I received instruction from Ojogbane that this charge against the defendant be withdrawn. We urge this court to strike out the charge.”
But Ojogbane, who appeared together with Nnadi and other lawyers for the prosecution, expressed surprise over the team leader’s claim that the EFCC gave the instruction for the withdrawal of the case.
The EFCC lawyer said, “I’m a little bit surprised by the submission of the learned silk (Nnadi).
“The instruction from my own director, legal and prosecution of the EFCC, Mr. Chime Okoroma, is for me to appear with the DPP of the Federation who he said would be coming to court this morning to withdraw this charge on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation.
“When I got to the court this morning I did not see him (DPP) but I saw the name of the learned silk on the cause list. I approached him and he confirmed to me that he had been briefed by the office of the AGF. He (Nnadi) told me he has the fiat of the AGF which is already admitted as exhibit in this court.
“He (Nnadi) put a call through to the DPP Federation whom I had the privilege of speaking with on the learned silk’s phone and he told me that the learned silk was going to withdraw the charge.
“It is not correct to say that EFCC asked him to withdraw the charge. EFCC did not instruct me to come and withdraw the charge.”
Ojogbane explained that the reason given by the the DPP for withdrawing the case was that the Sylva had similar charges pending against him before Justice Ahmed Mohammed of the same Federal High Court in Abuja.
He said, “I can confirm that this charge is to be withdrawn this morning by the office of the DPP and the reason given was that there are two similar matters against the accused person in this court – one before your lordship and another one beofre Justice A.R Mohammed which has progressed more than the one before your lordship.”
Sylva’s lawyer, Mr. Israel Olorundare (SAN), did not oppose the application for the withdrawal of the suit.
He urged the court to strike it out as prayed by the prosecution but he also urged the court to order the release of his client’s passport which had been in the custody of the court since he was first arraigned in 2012.
Olorundare also urged the court to restrain the EFCC from arresting Sylva based on the charges that were withdrawn.
While Nnadi did not oppose the release of Sylva’s passport to him, the lawyer said the court could not possibly give any order in anticipation of his arrest.
Justice Chukwu in his ruling struck out the case as he held that the Attorney-General of the Federation possessed the power under the constitution to delegate his power to issue a fiat as it was done in the case.
The judge also ordered that Sylva’s passport be released to him with the striking out of his case before the court.