Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The Abuja division of the Federal High Court on Thursday ordered the President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick, and four other persons to appear before it over the alleged misappropriation of $8,400,000 belonging to the football body by the Federal Government.
Justice Ijeoma Ojokwu specifically ordered that Pinnick and other defendants named in the 17-count charge appear before the court on November 5.
The order followed the absence of the defendants in court in violation of an order compelling their appearance yesterday.
Others indicted along with the NFF president are the NFF Secretary, Sunusi Mohammed; the 1st Vice-President, Seyi Akinwumi; the 2nd Vice-President, Shehu Dikko and an Executive member, Yusuff Fresh, an executive member.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu had earlier issued a warrant of arrest against four officials of the NFF in the case brought by the Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP), now disbanded by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Ojukwu issued the bench warrant on the four top officials of the NFF for their failure to appear in court to answer to the charges.
Although the defendants were cited at the court premises, they did not enter the courtroom.
Justice Ojokwu was displeased at the attitude of the defendants, the prosecution and defence counsel for disobeying her order directing the appearance of the defendants in court.
When the case was called, Dr Celsius Ukpong, who filed the charge on behalf the defunct Okoi Obono-Obla led Special Presidential Investigation Panel for the Recovery of Public Property (SPIP), informed the court that the panel had been disbanded by President Buhari.
Ukpong stated that in view of the President’s directive, the activities and functions of the panel have been transferred to the office of the Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF) and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami.
He added that the case file containing the charge and other processes have been transfered to the office of the AGF.
“It was the panel that filed the charges. But we have been disbnaded by President Muhammadu Buhari and directed to handover all our activities to the office of the AGF,” he said.
“In view of the new development, we believe that the office of the AGF will do justice to this matter, ” Ukpong stated.
Collaborating this position, a lawyer from the office of the AGF, Abubakar Musa, told the court that the case file is in transition to the office of the AGF, following the scraping of the SPIP by the President.
He further informed the court that there was the need to harmonise all pending cases regarding the defendants by the office of the AGF.
He prayed for an adjournment to have access to the file and comply with the orders of the court.
This position was shared by defence counsel Mohammed Katu, who informed the court that they were before the AGF to harmonise the pending cases against his clients.
Irked by this development, Justice Ojokwu threatened to discontinue with the case if her orders were not complied with.
While insisting that orders of court must be obeyed, Justice Ojokwu noted that “there is nobody that is bigger than the law and therefore if a court made an order it must be obeyed.”
“If I make an order, it must be obeyed by all parties. Is the AGF conducting this case? If there are multiplicity of cases on the subject matter of this charge, your duty is to come to court on the issue of abuse of court process. The AGF will not constitute a parallel court on this matter,” the judge fumed.
The judge, thereafter, adjourned the matter to November 5 with an order that the defendants be in court on said date.