Lagos- Justice Mohammed Yunusa of a Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday struck out the charge of forgery of a rice brand brought against a Chinese, Hong Dong Shen.
Yunusa, in his judgment, expressed dissatisfaction with the attitude of the prosecution, saying that the case had lingered for too long, without the prosecution calling witnesses to prove its case.
The judge also said that the suit lacked diligent prosecution and therefore, discharged the accused.
He said, “This case has dragged on for about 18 months and had been adjourned on more than nine different occasions.
“So far, the prosecution has been unable to produce any witness to testify in court, in spite of motions that have been served.
“The case is hereby struck out for lack of diligent prosecution,” he said.
Yunusa also ordered that the international passport of the freed Chinese should be returned to him by the court.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the accused has been standing trial on a four-count charge of forgery, fraud, unlawful possession and stealing.
He was arraigned on July 29, 2013 and pleaded not guilty to the charge, following which the judge granted him bail in the sum of N2 million, with two sureties in like sum.
The judge had also ordered the accused to deposit his travelling documents with the court’s registry.
The suit had suffered a series of adjournments at the instance of the prosecution, who was unable to produce witnesses in court to testify against the accused.
NAN reports that after the arraignment of the accused on July 29, 2013, the case was then fixed for the prosecution to open trial.
The case was adjourned on a number of times to: Sept. 19, 2013; Nov. 7, 2013; Dec. 11, 2013; Jan. 15, 2014; May 20, 2014; July 3, 2014; Nov. 12, 2014, and Dec. 10. 2014.
The Prosecutor, Mr Daniel Apochi, had on different adjourned dates, failed to produce his witnesses in court.
Apochi informed the court that the Investigating Police Officer (IPO) and other witnesses were out of the jurisdiction of the court, and that he was unable to secure their attendance.
He had told the court that the accused committed the offence between February 2011 and March 2013.
The prosecutor said that the accused forged the trade mark of Ollam Nigeria Ltd, producers of Mama Gold Rice, and had fraudulently reproduced about 140 bags, for illegal sale to members of the public.
According to the prosecutor, the trade mark is valued at N200 million.
He added that the offences contravened Sections 390 (9) and 516 of the Criminal Code Act, Laws of the Federation, 2004, and Sections 3 and 32 of the Merchandise Act, 2004. (NAN)