A Federal High Court in Abuja has insisted on the appearance of the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick and four others to answer to a pending criminal charge against them.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu gave the order yesterday at the resumed hearing in the charge brought against them by the Federal Government, through the now disbanded Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP) on the recovery of public property.
Those charged with Pinnick are NFF Secretary, Sanusi Mohammed; the 1st Vice-President, Seyi Akinwumi; the 2nd Vice-President, Shehu Dikko and an Executive member, Yusuff Fresh.
Pinnick and others are, in the charge 17-count charge, marked FHC/ABJ/CR/93/2019, accused among others, of misappropriation of $8,400,000 belonging to the football body.
The money was said to have been paid by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to the NFF as appearance fees in the group state of the Russia 2018 World Cup.
They are also accused of “moving dishonestly and intentionally the sum of about N4bn” belonging to the NFF without the consent of the NFF.
When the case was called on Thursday, the defendants were absent, despite the court’s order of July 1, 2019 for bench warrant compelling the defendants to appear on the next adjourned date.
SPIP’s lawyer, Celsius Ukpong drew the court’s attention to the fact that his agency, (the SPIP) has been shut down on the directive of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ukpong said, because of the development and subsequent directive by the President, SPIP’s activities and functions have been transferred to the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF).
He added that part of the SPIP’s activities transferred to the AGF was the case file containing the Pinnick and others’ charge and related processes.
Ukpong said: “It was the panel that file the charges. But, we have been disbanded and President Buhari directed us to handover all our activities to the office of the AGF.
” In view of the new development, we believe that the office of the AGF will do justice to this matter.”
A lawyer, who said he was from the AGF’s office, Abubakar Musa confirmed Ukpong’s explanation, but said he believed the case file was in transition to the office of the AGF, following the closure of the SPIP by the President.
After listening to the lawyers, Justice Ojukwu expressed displeasure at the defendants’ absence.
She noted that it was a slight on the court for its order to be ignored by the defendants, and threatened to excuse herself from the case.
The judge noted that had the defendants been in court, she would have excused them in view of the absence of a competent prosecution counsel before the court.
The judge thereafter adjourned until November 5, 2019, but insisted that the defendants must attend court.
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