FORGERY: FG DROPS CHARGES AGAINST 10 CAC LEADERS, OTHERS
The Federal Government has dropped charges against 10 out of the 14 leaders of the Christ Apostolic Church Worldwide dragged before a Federal High Court sitting in Ibadan. The church's President, Pastor Elijah Olusheye, and 13 others were hitherto dragged before the court presided over by Justice Johnson Shakarho on an eight-count charge of forgery.
Those dragged before the court alongside Olusheye were the church's General Secretary, Pastor Gideon Okegwemeh; Pastors Benjamin Okpaise, Elikanha Makinde, Johnson Olabisi, A. O. A. Olutimehin, J. D. Obafemi and J. O. Alokan.
Others were, Pastors D. O. Babajide, Taye Odesola, Mr. Abdul-Hakeem Muhammed, Mrs. J. K. Ahamadu Suka, Mr. P. A. Hul and Mr. J. I. Olawole.
The 14 persons, 10 of whom were CAC leaders,were accused of forging various documents from 1991 to 1995, to fraudulently obtain another Certificate of Registration for the church having fallen apart with other leaders of the church the previous year.
According to the charge sheet, the forged documents were used to deceive the Corporate Affairs Commission into issuing a new Certificate of Registration on the strength of affidavits and other documents on the pretence that the original certificate could not be retrieved from the Court of Appeal whereas the original certificate was in the custody of the then General Secretary, Pastor N. E. Udofia.
Olusheye and others were also alleged to have forged different minutes of meeting suggesting that certain church leaders held meetings to confirm the authenticity of their claims which the Federal Government said was false.
At the resumed hearing yesterday, the Assistant Director, Public Prosecution of the Federation, Mr. Bashir Olatunde, told the court that government had dropped charges against 10 of the accused persons, leaving Olusheye, Olabisi, Okegwemeh and Muhammed.
He subsequently withdrew the first charge with 14 accused persons and replaced it with the fresh charge with four accused.
A former President, Nigeria Bar Association, Mr. Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN), who represented the accused later called the attention of the court to a motion on notice which he filed on December 1, 2010.
He also faulted the prosecuting counsel for filing a counter-affidavit meant for the court in Abuja.
Admitting the error, Olatunde pleaded for time to regularize the counter-affidavit.
Justice Shakarho thereafter adjourned the case till March 15, 2011 for hearing.
Olatunde had earlier told the court that Akeredolu's application was not ripe to be taken because the accused had not taken their plea.
He reminded the judge that he (the judge) had at the last sitting ordered that the accused be brought to the court at the next sitting.
Some of those whose charges were dropped were said to had either died or are aged.
Meanwhile, a mild drama ensued between the lead counsel to the accused, Mr Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN) and the judge, Justice J. E. Shakarho when the former rejected the judge's description of his clients as 'accused.'
To Akeredolu, his clients were 'defendants,' arguing that the case had earlier been determined in favour of his clients by a court. But Justice Shakarho insisted that they remained 'accused' as far as relevant laws of the land are concerned, more so that he was hearing the case for the first time. Both of them stood their grounds as the hearing proceeded with the judge insisting that he would refer to the CAC leaders 'accused persons' on all the court papers.