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Masalla, APGA Factional Chairman, Has Case to Answer, Says Court

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SAN FRANCISCO, January 22, (THEWILL) – An Abuja High Court, Tuesday, ruled that the self acclaimed National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Sadeeq Masalla, has a case to answer for allegedly forging the signatures of some members of the party's National Working Committee (NWC).

The presiding judge,Justice Peter Kekemeke, who ruled on an application brought by Masalla to quash the charges against him, held that the prosecution had established a prima facie case against him.

The court also said there was a nexus between the accused person and the offences for which he was charged.

It will be recalled that the court had ordered the Police to arrest and produce Masalla before it on November 21 for arraignment over the said forgery of the signatures of some members of the NWC of APGA.

"The court has jurisdiction to try the case and there is nexus between the accused and the offences for which he is being charged.

The claim that there is no nexus is false and holds no water as the prosecution met all the conditions for the grant of the leave to prefer charges against the accused applicant. There the application to quash charges fails as once there is substantial compliance to the rules for granting the application to prefer the charge the application would be granted. The leave was granted in accordance with the law. There is a prima facie case against the accused and he is properly charged before the Honourable court.," Justice Kekemeke said.

The trial judge then fixed March 18th for the arraignment of Masalla and directed his counsel, Tochukwu Onwubufor, SAN, to make sure that he (Masalla) present himself at the court.

Masalla is facing a 11-count charge including forging the signatures of some members of APGA's NWC.

His counsel had applied to the court for an order to quash the charges on the ground that the materials placed before it which warranted the leave granted the prosecution to arraign the accused person (Masalla) were not sufficient for the court to grant the said leave.

But prosecution counsel, Frances Irabor, opposed the application, saying he was challenging the judge's consent which brought the charge into effect, adding that until the validity of the consent was determined, his client could not be arraigned.

"The motion seeks to quash the charge on the grounds that the court lacks the jurisdiction to entertain the charge and that the application to prefer the charge did not comply with the Criminal Procedure Code, the proof of evidence attached to the affidavit did not indicate the offenses of forgery.

"That the charge is frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the court processes, and that an accused person is entitled to bring an application to quash a charge on an indictment if he perceives that the charge would affect his right and is an abuse of court of processes moreover the application was brought behind his back ex- parte," he said.

The prosecutor however disagreed with him,saying the accused person ought to have been in court before his objection could be entertained by the court.

"The accused was charged with forgery for using as genuine forged documents under the penal code, it is trite law that all cases of forgery is triable in all courts of the FCT," he said. He pointed out that the grounds on which a charge could be quashed had been well laid out by the Supreme Court in the case of Egbe V Ikomi to include: when the court lacks the jurisdiction; the charge did not disclose the commission of an offense and that consent was giving in circumstances that infringed on the rights of the accused person.

According to him, there is a link between the accused and the offence for which he stands accused. He urged the court to look at the fact that the suspect had questions to answer.

On whether the proof of evidence showed a prima facie evidence to warrant the trial of the accused person, Irabor said: "There are materials before the court to show that the suspect should be brought for trial. I pray the court to hold that the proof of evidence discloses a prima facie case against the accused person and there is a nexus between the accused and the offences for which he is standing trial, we submit that in quashing or allowing a charge the court must confine itself to the charge and proof of evidence filed in support.

"We therefore call on the court to discountenance the affidavit in support of the accused person's objection as the power of the court to quash a charge is a solemn one which is exercised to discharge the accused from oppression."