Alleged Forgery: Jonathan Summoned Over Case Against Leadership Journalists
SAN FRANCISCO, July 16, (THEWILL) – President Goodluck Jonathan has been summoned to appear before An Abuja High Court sitting in Kubwa to testify in the case of alleged forgery of presidential directives' bromide published in the Leadership newspaper of April 3.
Presiding judge, Justice Usman Musale, issued the summons (subpoena ad testificandum) dated July 15 to the President requesting him to come to court with documents to give evidence.
The President was to be served with the subpoena through the Federal Ministry of Justice.
According to the subpoena, President Jonathan is to appear before the court day to day until the case is concluded, to give evidence for the accused persons and also to bring with him and produce at the time and aforesaid the purportedly forged document titled 'presidential directive' having on it the seal of the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria published on the front page of Leadership Newspaper of April 3.
The Federal Government, had on June 27, re-arraigned two Leadership journalists namely, Group News Editor, Mr. Tony Amokeodo, and Senior Correspondent , Mr. Chibuzo Ukaibe, on an alleged 11-count criminal charge bordering on conspiracy and forgery.
The journalists were, however, granted bail by the trial judge, having pleaded not guilty and the court consequently adjourned the case to July 16 for hearing.
When the case resumed for hearing, the prosecutor, Chief Adegboyega Awomolo, SAN, told the court that he was ready to go on with the trial but Falana, who is standing in for the accused, said a subpoena personally signed by the trial judge was served on the Presidency via the Ministry of Justice.
Falana also said that he had filed an application asking for an order of the court to suspend further proceedings in the matter indefinitely (sine die) to await the end of the term of President Jonathan to enable him to testify as a witness for the accused persons.
Falana based his request on the grounds that the fundamental right of the accused persons to fair hearing could not be observed by the trial court as their application for the issuance and service of subpoena ad testificandum on President Jonathan had been granted by the court.
According to him, by virtue of section 308 of the 1999 CFRN, as amended, the court lacks the vires (power) to issue and cause to be served, a subpoena ad testificandum on the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federation to testify as a witness for the accused persons in this case.
"The accused persons are inhibited from obtaining the attendance of the president and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, to testify as a witness for the accused persons in this case," he said.
However, opposing the application, Awomolo said the accused persons' application was not ripe for hearing.
He said the accused persons should wait for the prosecution to try its case and when it was time for the accused persons to open their defence, they could raise the issue of their star witness.
But Falana cited section 36 (b) of the 1999 Constitution on the need for the accused to be availed with adequate preparation and the necessary facilities to defend themselves, saying there should be a level playing field before the court.
Awomolo, however, countered him ,saying there was no level playing ground before the court.
He asked the court to allow him to call his witnesses for the commencement of the trial while Falana could later bring the issue of calling the president as a witness after he might have concluded the case.
Justice Musale later told the two counsel that he would rise for 10 minutes to enable him deliver his ruling on whether or not the journalists' application was ripe for hearing.
But after a couple of minutes, the judge summoned Awomolo and Falana to his chambers.
The judge thereafter resumed sitting and informed the parties that he needed time before he could deliver his ruling and consequently adjourned the matter till Wednesday for the ruling on the propriety of whether or not Falana's motion was ripe for hearing.
See Copy Of Subpoena: