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Complainant Prays Lagos AG to Dismiss Petition to Stop Trial of Lawyers Charge With Forgery 

Complainant in the criminal charge LD/CR/26/2024, filed against two lawyers and a businessman at the Lagos High Court, TBS, by the Director of Public Prosecution (DPP), Dr. Obidigwe Eze has urged the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice (AG), Lawal Pedro (SAN) to resist the temptation to discontinue the prosecution as requested by one of the suspects.

The defendants in the charge are Adebayo Akeju of Adon Law Chambers, Ademola Owolabi of Ademola Adetokunbo & Co, and Alex Ochonogor of Bluecrest Homes Limited. 

 Akeju, who is charged with forgery and damage to property alongside the other two, had in April 25, 2024 written a petition to the AG, praying him to stop their prosecution in an attempt to mislead him into believing that it is a malicious charge, without even showing up in court to take his plea. 

 In the petition, which was published in an online platform, titled, “Application for Administrative Review of the Legal Advice on the Referenced Matter”, he made sundry claims to evoke sympathy and mislead the AG, including that the Police investigation report that resulted in the advice to try them was inaccurate. 

He claimed that he simply carried out the instruction of his client, Major Hamza Al-Mustapha (Retd), who is the original owner of the land. 

According to him, Al-Mustapha said he had lost his original Certificate of Occupancy and so signed a Memorandum of Loss (MoL) for him to use in disposing of the property. 

But Al-Mustapha in a letter to the permanent secretary, Governor’s Office, Lagos State Land Bureau, Alausa dated May 22, 2024, said he had sold and transferred the original Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) of the property long before Akeju raised Memorandum of Loss of C of O suo moto, which he used in selling off the property again. 

“I have not misplaced nor lost the Certificate of Occupancy. Furthermore, I have never sworn an affidavit stating its lost, nor have I filed a missing police report concerning this document, as well as never caused any public service announcement in any newspaper about misplacing my original C Of O. Hence, kindly disregard any assertion that contradicts this position,” Al-Mustapha stated. 

However, Dr Eze, writing a rebuttal to the AG dated May 15, 2024 through his lawyers, Philip Jimoh-Lasis (SAN), Chukwudi Adiukwu (SAN), Bamidele Ibironke (SAN) and Anthony Omaghomi charged the AG to ignore the petition and exercise discretion in favour of public interest and the interest of justice by directing the DPP to proceed with the prosecution of the suspects. 

“Our client is convinced that the investigation carried out by the police and the conclusion reached is accurate, i.e. that there is a prima facie case of conspiracy, forgery, illegal encroachment, and contempt against Akeju, Owolabi and Ochonogor. 

“Ochonogor is in active violation of a court order and was facing a 9 count charge No: ID/120C/2012 between FRN V. Mahmud Tukur. Ochonogor and Akeju have been served and have refused to appear in court, making a mockery of the judicial system. 

“We are confident that being the resourceful Attorney-General we know you to be, the limitless power, which Section 211 of the Constitution endows you with, will be exercised for overriding public interest,” Dr Eze prayed.

The lawyers stressed that they recognise the unquestionable discretion that the office of the Attorney-General of Lagos State enjoys by virtue of Section 211 of the 1999 Constitution in the exercise of his powers to institute or discontinue criminal proceedings. 

“This pre-eminent and incontestable position is not subject to any control (except for the reaction of your appointer). However, in the exercise of this discretion, regard shall be had to public interest, the interest of justice, and the need to prevent the abuse of the legal process.

“The filing of the charge against Mr. Akeju was preceded by a thorough police investigation that lasted over a year, which established a case of Conspiracy, Forgery, and damage to property against him and others. 

“This was followed by a detailed review by the office of the DPP, an arm of your esteemed office, who came up with advice that there is a prima facie case against these persons. Would it serve the public good to discontinue this charge filed by the DPP?

“It would meet the justice of the case if Mr. Akeju is advised to go to court rather than pursue this alarmist cry. As a lawyer, one would have expected that he would gladly appear in court to defend himself of all charges, just as he claims he is doing in the civil case. 

“What exactly is he afraid of when he has countless times said he is innocent? Subjecting this whole allegation to trial would be in the interest of justice for all parties involved. The legal principle on presumption of innocence until proven guilty remains sacrosanct in our jurisprudence. 

“He should, therefore, stand his trial, supply the gamut of the defence that he has alluded to that he has and allow the prosecution discharge the burden of proof,” they prayed the AG. 

According to them, what would be the public interest in the circumstances of the case is to proceed to try the suspects. 

“After a thorough investigation by the police, a prima facie case of conspiracy, forgery, and fraud is established against the suspects. The DPP has also advised that they have a case to answer, a charge has been filed, then one of the suspects is requesting the Honourable Attorney General to discontinue. 

“We respectfully request that you exercise your discretion in favour of the public interest and the interest of justice by directing the DPP to proceed with the prosecution,” they urged the AG.

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