You have a case to answer, court tells suspended UNICAL dean

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A Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday dismissed the no-case submission by the suspended Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Calabar, Prof. Cyril Ndifon, and his lawyer, Sunny Anyanwu.

The professor is currently standing trial on four amended counts of alleged sexual harassment and gratification preferred against him by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission.

His lawyer, Anyanwu, was alleged to have harassed the ICPC’s star witness.

On February 19, their lawyer, Joe Agi (SAN), filed a no-case submission urging the court to discharge and acquit them.

The duo contended that there was no evidence adduced by the prosecution on which the court could convict them, insisting that the commission failed to establish a prima facie case against them.

Specifically, the professor claimed that the series of chats between him and TKJ, a diploma graduate suggested a consensual relationship between them.

In the chats, the professor noted that they conveyed their love, affection, and concern for each other’s safety.

But the commission, in opposition, filed a counter affidavit on February 23, praying the court to dismiss the application.

Justice James Omotosho, in a ruling, held that the evidence led by the prosecution constituted a prima facie case against the duo.

Justice Omotosho, therefore, ordered Ndifon, the suspended dean, and Anyanwu to enter their defence.

The judge said that though the provision of the ICPC Act relied upon by Agi showed that FHC was not mentioned as a court with jurisdiction over the Act, he said that the court was bound by the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of Aweto Vs. FRN(2018) where it cited provisions of the ICPC Act, 2000 and Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).

“The purpose of the above decision is that the Federal High Court has the requisite jurisdiction to entertain matters based on the Corrupt Practices Act 2000.

“This is premised on the powers of the Federal High Court under Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution vesting it with exclusive jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters involving federal agencies.

“The ICPC is a federal agency and likewise the 1st defendant is a public officer in a federal institution. All these factors make this court a proper venue to try the offences,” he said.

On the issue of territorial jurisdiction, the judge disagreed with the defence counsel that the court was not the right venue for the trial since the cause of action arose in Cross River.

Citing Order 2 Rules 2 and 3 of the FHC (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2019, Justice Omotosho held that a suit could be commenced in any judicial division of the FHC.

On whether the ICPC had powers to investigate and prosecute offences under the Cybercrimes Act, 2015, he said the commission is a prime federal law enforcement agency with the mandate of investigating and prosecuting offences of corruption, fraud, bribery, and abuse of office by public officers, going by its Act under Section 47.

Justice Omotosho said the evidence so far led by the prosecution shows prima facie that the 1st defendant (Ndifon) solicited the nude photos of PW2 (female diploma student) with the promise of giving her admission into the Faculty of Law of the University of Calabar.

“PW1 who was one of the investigators testified that examinations carried out on the phone of the Ist defendant reveal messages from 1st defendant to PW2 soliciting for these images.”

The judge, however, said that holding that a prima facie case has been established does not necessarily imply that the court finds the defendants guilty of the charge.

“Consequently, this objection is overruled. In the final analysis, the no-case submission of the defence is likely to fail as the evidence led by the prosecution constitutes a prima facie case against the defendants.

“Consequently, the no-case submission is overruled and the defendants are ordered to enter their defence,” Justice Omotosho declared.

The matter was adjourned until March 12 for the defendants to enter a defence.

Omotosho also accepted Victor Ndoma-Egba and Okon Efut (SAN) as sureties for the bail earlier granted to Ndifon.

Ndoma-Egba represented Cross River Central Senatorial District in the National Assembly for 12 years.