The Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has struck out the “illegal possession of firearm charge” against the suspended Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Governor, Godwin Emefiele following an application by the Ministry of Justice to withdraw it.
Justice Nicholas Oweibo struck out the charge after holding that the prosecution had the statutory powers to withdraw a charge against a defendant at any stage of trial.
The judge, in his ruling, held that the application filed by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Mohammed Abubakar, seeking the withdrawal of the case is found in Section 108 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), which empowers him to withdraw the charge and there is no requirement for the application to be in writing.
The defence, through its lead counsel, Senior Advocate of Nigeria Joseph Daudu had argued that the prosecution could not withdraw the charge unless the government purges itself of its disobedience to the court’s order of July 25 granting Emefiele bail.
Justice Oweibo, in a short ruling, condemned the conduct of the prosecution. In allowing the withdrawal of the charge, the judge wondered what good it would do to the defence if the court did not allow the leave.
He said, “The prosecution has shown that they are not law abiding and have no respect for the court. The court cannot force them. What good will it be for the defendant who is in custody? Of what benefit will it be to keep the file in the court’s docket?”
“To stop the embarrassment of the court and to keep its integrity intact, I believe the proper thing is to allow them withdraw the charge. They can simply abandon it and the court will still have to strike it out for lack of diligent prosecution. The application to withdraw is hereby granted.”
The government had accused Emefiele of possessing a single-barrel shotgun (JOJEFF MAGNUM 8371) without a licence, an offence contrary to section 4 of the Firearms Act Cap F28 Laws of the Federation 2004 and punishable under Section 27 (1b) of the same Act.
The defendant was also accused of having in his possession 123 rounds of live ammunition (Cartridges) without a licence, which is contrary to section 8 of the Firearms Act Cap F28 Laws of the Federation 2004 and punishable under Section 27 (1)(b)(il) of the same Act.