The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Friday, discharged a former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Osun State, Ademola Adeleke, over allegations of examination malpractice and certificate forgery.
He was discharged after the prosecution withdrew the charge against him following his repeated refusal to appear for trial since he was granted bail last year.
Mr Adeleke was arraigned in 2018 alongside the principal of Ojo-Aro Community Grammar School, Aregbesola Muftau; the registrar of the school, Gbadamosi Ojo; a teacher in the school, Dare Olutope, as well as Sikiru Adeleke.
The police accused them of fraudulently registering Mr Adeleke and another Sikiru Adeleke as students of Ojo-Aro Community Grammar School in Ojo-Aro, Osun State, for the National Examination Council’s June/July 2017 Senior School Certificate Examination in February 2017.
The police said the offences contravened the provisions of the Examination Malpractices Act Cap E15 LFN 2004.
At the continuation of trial on Thursday, the prosecuting lawyer, Simon Lough, told Justice Inyang Ekwo that the prosecution has decided to drop Mr Adeleke’s name in the case due to his continued absence from the court which continued to stall the trial.
Mr Adeleke had not been present in court for his trial since he was granted permission by the court on May 6, 2019, to travel to the United States of America on health grounds.
The court had ordered him to return to the country by June 7, 2019.
At the resumed hearing of the matter on Friday, the prosecution lawyer informed the court that the police have decided to erase Mr Adeleke’s name from the charges and rearrange the other defendants.
Mr Lough explained that the former senator’s continuous absence has continued to stall the trial.
Following this, Mr Adeleke’s name was erased from the case with the remaining defendants arraigned on Friday.
The defence lawyer, Alex Izinyon, did not oppose the application for the amendment of the charges when the prosecution announced the discontinuation of the case against Mr Adeleke on Friday.
The senior lawyer, however, urged the judge to make a consequential order of discharging and acquitting the ex-governorship candidate.
In his reaction, the prosecution partly opposed the request saying the appropriate order the court could make was to discharge the defendant.
In a ruling on Friday, Justice Inyang Ekwo held that although the prosecution, by its application, sought to serve the charge, he would take its (prosecution’s) intention to mean withdrawal of the case against the former senator.
The judge said his decision was informed by the fact that no law allowed the prosecution to serve a charge, but the law allows the prosecution to withdraw the charge against a defendant and to amend at any time before judgment.
Mr Ekwo noted that Section 108 of the ACJA allowed the prosecution to undertake a withdrawal of charges, while Section 246 of the Act dealt with the amendment of charge.
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“The law is that the prosecution can amend the charge at any time before judgment.
“There would have been nothing wrong if the prosecution had simply applied to withdraw against the first defendant (Adeleke).
“I am seeing this application (the one argued on Thursday by the prosecution lawyer) as one that simply seeks to withdraw, and I so hold.
“This withdrawal is taking place after the prosecution has called four witnesses. And from the record of the court, the evidence of the prosecution witnesses was concluded.
“The consequential order to be made upon the withdrawal of a charge is at the discretion of the court under Section 108(3) of the ACJA, ”Justice Ekwo said.
He held that, since the prosecution sought to withdraw against the first defendant at this stage, he was of the view that the appropriate order to be made was that of acquittal because the evidence of the prosecution’s four witnesses had been concluded and the witnesses had been discharged.
The judge then made an order allowing the prosecution’s withdrawal of the charge against the former senator and proceeded to make order acquitting the first defendant (Adeleke).
The matter has been adjourned to June 25 for the continuation of the trial of the other defendants.