There was mild drama at the Federal High Court Ikoyi, Lagos Division on Monday, April 23, 2018, as Celsus Ukpong, the prosecutor in the case between the Federal Government of Nigeria and five directors of the National Theatre of Nigeria before Justice Muslim Hassan, served the defendants the charge sheet inside the court room as recorded in its registry, same day.
This is coming on the heels of the correction that the defendants never jumped bail as alleged by the prosecution lawyer. He was therefore refrained from using such terms in future proceedings.
Before the drama ensued, the victimized directors who got wind of the court hearing from colleagues at the National Theatre, Lagos went to the court premises to ascertain it.
On getting to the court premises and seeing their names on the notice board, they hurriedly arranged a lawyer to represent them when the case was called up.
According to the two count charge filed against them as public officers, they accepted N500, 000 from Market Execution Solutions Limited, a commercial firm which had a contract with the federal government. The prosecution said they committed the offence on January 16, 2018.
The defendants in the case are George Nkanta, Abiodun Abe, Femi Joel, Ndubuisi Nwogu and Rose Okafor. However, their planned arraignment Monday, April 23, 2018 was stalled as Muhammed Adamu, lawyer to the defendants pointed out that his clients were not properly served the court summon, prompting one of them to be absent due to ill health. “She is presently on admission in a hospital. I request that the defendants be properly served while the distinguished Justice adjourned the hearing of the case to a later date”, he argued.
Having listened to the arguments of Adamu, Justice Hassan directed Ukpong to properly serve the defendants the court summons. This was done in the court room as the presiding judge adjourned hearing of the case to May 14, 2018.
In an eight paragraph counter affidavit against the notice of preliminary objection in the charge number FHC/L/82c/2018, dated April 19, 2018 and signed by the defendants lawyer, and sighted by this reporter, he pointed out in paragraph eight that the defendants never jumped administrative bail as alleged by the prosecution lawyer.