Alleged N167m theft: Court adjourns arraignment of Oyo LG officials

Justice O. Ogunjobi of the Lagos State High Court in Igbosere has adjourned till August 28, 2020, the arraignment of an Oyo State local government council official, Badmus Adesina, and a lawyer, Ibukunoluwa Konu, over the alleged theft of N167,886,591.60.

Justice Ogunjobi fixed the date for the Directorate of Public Prosecutions’ advice.

The defendants were alleged to have conspired to commit the offences of stealing, forgery and production of documents without authority between 2009 and 2019.

According to the prosecution, the defendants stole N167,886,591,60 from the estate of one late Godfrey Kwashie Konu.

The defendants were alleged to have forged a letter of attestation of marriage certificate purportedly issued by the Ibadan South East Local Government Council of Oyo State and a letter titled: ‘Marriage Certificate’, issued by a magistrates’ court in Ibadan.

The prosecution further alleged that the defendants, with intent to defraud and without lawful authority or excuse, made, signed and executed the forged letter of attestation of the marriage certificate.

The defendants were scheduled for arraignment on May 19, 2020, but Adesina was not in court as his counsel, Peters Agboola, told the court that he could not come because of the ban on interstate travels as he was based in Ibadan.

The court subsequently adjourned till July 28, 2020, for the arraignment of the defendants.

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At the resumed proceedings on Tuesday, the court acknowledged a letter from an Assistant Directorate in the Director of Public Prosecutions on behalf of the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice seeking an adjournment.

However, the prosecutor, E. O. Asogwa, who noted that the purpose of the letter was not known to the law, urged the court to reject it.

“I say that this is contrary to the provisions of Section 273 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State, 2015, which, in summary, prohibits the stay of criminal proceedings before any high or magistrates’ court,” he said.

The defence counsel, Peters Agboola and Folabi Kuti, objected to the prosecutor’s motion.

All this letter has asked for is an adjournment and not a stay. To that extent, I submit that the provisions of the ACJL cited are inapplicable. The AG is not before this court for a stay of proceedings. If he was asking for a stay of proceedings, he would not be asking for a month away,” Agboola stated.

In a bench ruling, the judge upheld the defence’s prayer, noting among others that the AG would consider the public interest in the exercise of his powers.

Ruling on the submission of the counsel, Justice Ogunjobi said, “I have listened to the submission of the prosecution and defence counsel. Prosecution and defence are agreed that the AG has the power under Section 211 of the 1999 Constitution to take over criminal prosecution in court.

“The purpose of the letter from the office of the AG is for an adjournment to enable the AG to consider the legal advice and determine whether or not to take over the prosecution.

“Arraignment today will not serve any useful purpose if the AG decides to take over and not prosecute. Arraignment will then only result in a waste of judicial time. I shall, therefore, grant the requested adjournment in the interest of justice.”

NIGERIAN TRIBUNE

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