Home News High Court Grants FG Permission to Arraign IPMAN Factional President, 2 Others

High Court Grants FG Permission to Arraign IPMAN Factional President, 2 Others

ABUJA (Sundiata Post) – The Federal Capital Territory (FCT) High Court has granted the Federal Government permission to prefer criminal charges against factional president of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IMPAN), Chief Obasi Lawson and two others after holding that a prima facie case has been established against them.
Justice Abba Mohammed, who delivered judgment on Tuesday in the motion brought by the defendants seeking to quash the six-count criminal charge against them by the Federal Government, dismissed the application on the ground that it was incompetent and lacked merit.
Justice Mohammed has accordingly fixed December 7, 2015 for the arraignment of the defendants; Lawson, Mr. Ukadike Chinedu and Mr. Augustine Erhabor before his court.
Earlier, counsel to the defendants, Edward Wanaghor,had urged the to quash the six count armed robbery charge preferred against his clients and also, stop the court from entertaining any of the criminal charges against them on the grounds that the investigations by the Nigeria Police Force is inconclusive.
But the prosecuting counsel, David Kaswe vehemently opposed the preliminary objection by the defence counsel on the grounds that it was premature since no charge has yet being preferred against his clients.
Lawson, who was in 2007 and 2013 respectively, expelled by the National Executive Council of IPMAN, for gross insubordination and instigating nationwide crisis within the national fold of the body, had also on March 20, 2014 while adopting fraudulent processes claimed he was given a judgment by a  Federal High Court in Port Harcourt, presided over Lambo Akambo, declaring him the  “President” of the Board of Trustees of IPMAN, a non-existent position in the constitution of the association.
In dismissing the application to quash the charges, Justice Mohammed held, in the instant case, the prosecution has only filed an exparte application seeking for leave of this court to prefer a criminal charge against the defendants.
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Justice Mohammed further held that in an application before a judge of the High Court for leave to prefer a criminal charge, the proceedings is essentially between the prosecutor (applicant) and the Judge. The defendant has no role to play and even where he appears [as in this case] he is not formally before the court because no charge has yet been preferred against him.
He said: “It is only when the leave sought is granted that a charge is preferred and the court will take cognizance of the charge and same shall be served on the accused person before he is formally arraigned before the court for his plea.
“Hence, there is presently no charge against the defendants which the defendants could seek to quash by this application. In other words, the defendants’ instant application seeks to quash a charge that is non-existent. As the learned counsel for the prosecution rightly submitted, you cannot put something on nothing and expect it to stand.
“Also, as rightly submitted by learned counsel for the prosecution, even where a charge is preferred, section 396 [2] of the new Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 has expressly stopped defendants from filling any objection to a charge without first making their plea.”
“Indeed, by the above provision of this new Act, an objection to charge even where properly raised shall be taken along with the substantive case and ruled upon at the time of delivery of judgment. This innovative provision tends to lay to rest what has hitherto been the use of all sorts of objections or applications at the early stage of criminal proceedings to clog the expeditious adjudication of criminal cases.
“But in the instant case, I have already found that the defendant’s application seeking to quash the charge is lacking in foundation because there is no charge to be quashed even if the application were to be entertained. This being so, the application is evidently incompetent and must collapse like a pack of cards. I so find, hold and accordingly dismiss the defendant’s application for lack of merit”.

However, the defendants had argued that the office of the AIG Zone 7 which covers the FCT Police Command had intervened in the matter and asked for the return of the original case file for further investigation means that serious doubt is cast on the case and the investigation leading to the charge.
Besides, they further contended that even after the DPP has returned the original case file for further investigation, the FCT Police Command had master-minded the arrest and detention of the 1st accused (Lawson) for no just case on the basis of the same charge and even asked him to report to court for the purpose of arraignment when the original case file was with the office of the AIG, Zone 7 for further investigation.

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