The Nigerian government has withdrawn the charge of forgery filed against two journalists at an Abuja High Court.
Tony Amokeodo and Chibuzo Ukaibe, both of LEADERSHIP Newspapers, were accused of forging a presidential document alleging a directive to security agencies to clamp down on opposition leaders. The document and the story were published by the newspaper on April 3, 2013.
The government’s decision to drop the charges is contained in a letter signed by the Director of Public Prosecution, Muhammad Diri, and addressed to the government counsel, Adegboyega Awomolo. The letter directed him to discontinue the case.
The letter, with reference number FCT/HC/CR/6755/2013 was dated September 23, 2015.
At the last adjourned date, Mr. Awomolo, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, sought to tender a copy of the letterhead paper from the Presidency to prove that the one published by the newspaper was forged.
But lawyer to the journalists, Femi Falana, raised objection on the ground that the document sought to be tendered was from the office of the Chief of Staff to the President and not from the Office of the President, arguing that the witness, Ibrahim Bako, had stated under oath that he got it from the office of the President.
Justice Usman Musale agreed with Mr. Falana and rejected the document.
Earlier, the court had summoned former President Goodluck Jonathan to appear before it and give evidence at the trial.
Justice Musale issued the summons (subpoena ad testificandum), dated July 15, 2013, to Mr. Jonathan requesting him to come to court with documents to give evidence in the matter.
The former President was to be served with the subpoena through the Federal Ministry of Justice. But, the Federal Government, through Mr. Awomolo, appealed the ruling of the court which summoned President Jonathan.
The government, had on June 27, 2013 re-arraigned the two LEADERSHIP journalists on an alleged 11-count criminal charge bordering on conspiracy and forgery. They were, however, granted bail by the trial judge, having pleaded not guilty.
The court consequently adjourned the case to July 16, 2013 for hearing.
At the resumed hearing of the suit on July 16, the judge adjourned to the next day to enable him make proper ruling on a motion that the case be suspended indefinitely, raised by the defence counsel, Femi Falana.
Mr. Musale said the matter required adequate care before ruling could be given.
“I feel that this is not a matter that I can rush into ruling; for this reason, this matter is adjourned to July 17 for ruling. Ruling shall be made by 11a.m. and the bail of the accused is extended,” Mr. Musale said.
The judge had earlier stood down the matter for close to one hour to consider the motion before the adjournment.
Mr. Falana had argued that the he subpoenaed President Goodluck Jonathan to appear as a witness and the court had granted the subpoena.
“Following our subpoena on the president, we had also filed a motion to the effect that this trial ought to be suspended indefinitely in light of provisions of Section 308 of the constitution. No process of any court requiring or compelling the attendance in court of a government official covered by the immunity clause can proceed until such official ceases to enjoy immunity,” Mr. Falana had argued.