By Sylvanus Ofekun
The Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday ordered that the President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mr. Amaju Melvin Pinnick and four other indicted NFF officials charged with fraud involving the sums of $8.4m and N4bn, should be served in a subsisted way the copies of the charges through their offices.
The Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP) had, earlier this month, filed the 17-count charge, marked, FHC/ABJ/CR/93/2019 against Pinnick and others, claiming among others that the money formed part of what was paid by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to the NFF as appearance fees in the group stage of the Russia 2018 World Cup.
Named with Pinnick, in the charge, are NFF Secretary, Sunusi Mohammed; the 1st Vice-President, Seyi Akinwumi; the 2nd Vice-President, Shehu Dikko, and an Executive member, Yusuff Fresh.
When the case was called on Tuesday, the defendants were not in court.
Lawyer to SPIP, Celcius Ukpong said the prosecution was unable to effect personal service on the defendants and applied for leave to served through substituted means.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu made the order for substituted service of the charges on the defendants on Tuesday after the prosecuting counsel, Dr. Celsius Ukpong complained that the defendants, who are all NFF officials, had been evading personal service.
Ukpong, who is prosecuting the case on behalf of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel and the Recovery for Public Property, said the defendants were granted bail but all efforts to get them served with the charges had proved abortive.
He informed the judge of his pending ex parte application which he had filed to request the permission of the court to serve the defendants through substituted means.
He said, “We have not been able to serve the defendants with the copies of the charges.
“As a consequence, we have filed an ex parte motion for substituted service.
“The defendants are evading service.
“We have been to their offices. They are on what we call administrative bail.
“But (we)have been calling them to come to pick up the copies to their charges and we have been to their offices to serve them, all to no avail.
“We want to serve them through their offices by virtue of section 125 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.”
None of the five defendants or their lawyers was present in court when Ukpong moved his ex parte application on Tuesday.
Ruling, Justice Ojukwu granted the application as requested.
She then adjourned till July 1 for arraignment.