By Sandra Umeh
A Federal High Court in Lagos on Monday fixed June 13 for the arraignment of five directors of the National Theatre for allegedly receiving N500,000 each from a government contractor.
The accused include a former Acting General Manager, George Ntanta, the Director of Business Development and Events Management, Abiodun Abe, the Director of Engineering and Technology, Ndubuisi Nwogu, the Director of Planning, Research and Strategies, Doris Okafor and Femi Joel.
They were charged by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel on a two-count charge of violating the Code of Conduct Act.
Mr Aminu Alilu, a Legal Officer from the Federal Ministry of Justice, who announced appearance for the Attorney-General of the Federation, told the court that he had directives from the A-G to take over and continue with prosecution of the case.
According to him, by the provisions of sections 174 (1)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the A-G reserves the right to take over, continue or discontinue any criminal charge.
He, therefore, urged the court to so hold.
In his ruling, Justice Muslim Hassan, upheld the submissions of Alilu and held that by the provisions of the constitution, the A-G possessed the power to take over criminal proceedings and “is not legally bound to explain the reasons for the take over”.
Reiterating the provisions of sections 174 of the constitution, Justice Hassan held that the A-G’s power of take-over can be exercised by him personally or by any of his officers.
The court consequently held: “Mr A. K Alilu is an officer of the A-G and he can validly take over the case.”
The court, however, adjourned the case until June 13 for the arraignment of the accused.
The prosecutor, Mr Cletus Ukpong, had earlier brought the accused to court on April 23.
The arraignment was, however, stalled following the absence of one of the accused, who suddenly took ill in court and was rushed to the hospital.
The case was then adjourned till May 14.
According to the charge, the accused were said to have committed the offence on Jan. 16, 2017.
The prosecution alleged that while being public officers, they accepted the sum of N500,000 each from a commercial firm called, Market Execution Solutions Ltd, which had contract with the Federal Government.
They allegedly accepted the money on account of transactions entered into on behalf of the Federal Government with the firm in the discharge of their duties.
The offences contravened the provisions of Sections 10 (1) of the Code of Conduct Act and the provisions of Sections 1 (2) and 10 (1) (a) of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act, 2004.