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419: Dankofa has case to answer, Supreme Court decides

  • Reprimands lawyer for delayed adjudication
  • Slams N1m fine against him

The Supreme Court has directed Barr. Yusuf Dankofa, to without any further delay, enter his defense in a four-count charge dealing on false pretence with intent to defraud by obtaining the sum of N250,000 and another N750,000 contrary to Section 1 (1)(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act of 2006 and punishable under Section 1 (3) of the Act.

Dankofa was charged to court by the Federal Government over the allegation of making false document and using same false document as genuine contrary to Section 364 of the Penal Code.  

Justice Sidi Bage, who gave the order, which received the concurrence endorsement of the other four Justices of the court in an appeal filed by Dankofa against the decision of the High Court of Kaduna State and the Kaduna Division of the Court of Appeal, which upon an interlocutory ruling and appeal on a no-case submission he made on the criminal charges, overruled him and asked him to immediately enter his defense.

Apart from ordering him to enter defense on the charges, Dankofa was instructed by the apex court to pay the sum of N1 million as cost, payable personally.

Dankofa filed an appeal at the Supreme Court against the decision of the Court of Appeal sitting in Kaduna in Appeal No. CA/K/13C/2010 delivered on 13th February 2014, which was struck-out on the basis of being incompetent based on his preliminary objection.

Being dissatisfied with the ruling he filed a Notice of Appeal of three grounds dated 20th February, 2014, arising from the decision of the Kaduna High Court which overruled his no-case submission.

Delivering the ruling of the apex court which was affirmed by the other Justices on the panel, Justice Bage said: “I resolve the sole issue formulated in favour of the respondent (Federal Government).

“I uphold the decision of the Court below (Court of Appeal) to the extent, this appeal is incompetent by virtue of the combined effect of the provisions of Section 241(1) and 242(1).

“For the avoidance of doubts, I hold that this appeal lacks merit and is accordingly dismissed. The Appellant is again directed to enter his defence to the charges preferred against him”.

He expressed “our displeasure at needless dilatory tactics of the appellant in this appeal”, adding that “as a legal practitioner, the appellant knows, or ought to know, that justice should never be allowed to be sacrificed on the altar of infamy of a lawyer lacking in the level of probity expected of gentlemen of the bar”.

The Supreme Court Justice added that: “The deliberate act of hurling obstacles on the highway of justice by crucial stakeholders like legal practitioners is, to say the least, unprofessional, retrogressive and highly reprehensible.

“I dare say it should also form the basis of further recourse at the level of disciplinary organs of the Nigerian Bar, subject to the outcome of the retrial of the subject matter of this appeal, which the four-count charge is pending against the Appellant.

“This is one situation in which this Court must rise-up to the occasion in defence of justice, which is often denied by delay, and send the right signal to potential violators like the Appellant.

“In view of this background, I award cost of One Million Naira Only (N1,000,000) against the Appellant, payable personally”.

Barr. Dankofa was arraigned at the High Court of Kaduna State on a four-count charge dealing on false pretence with intent to defraud by obtaining the sum of N250,000 and N750,000 contrary to Section 1 (1)(a) of the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Related Offences Act of 2006 and punishable under Section 1 (3) of the Act, for making false document and using false document as genuine contrary to Section 364 of the Penal Code.

The appellant pleaded not guilty to the charge, while the prosecution called eight witnesses to testify on its behalf, the appellant (as the accused person) opted for a no case submission which was overruled by the trial court.

Being dissatisfied with the ruling on (No Case Submission), the Appellant lodged an appeal at the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division.

He raised a preliminary objection on the competence of the Appeal on the ground that the Notice of Appeal filed by the appellant dated 9th October 2009, (wrongly described as 9th October 2004, at page 2 of the Appellant’s Brief) is incompetent, being one that raised issues of mixed law and facts which by virtue of the provisions of 241(1)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended) requires leave of Court.

In its ruling, the Appeal Court upheld the Preliminary Objection of the Federal Government and held that the appeal was incompetent and proceeded to strike out same.

The Appeal Court, in the lead Judgment per Abdu Aboki JCA, also directed that the appellant (Dankofa) should proceed to enter his defense to the four-count charge against him.

Being dissatisfied, the Dankofa decided to explore the option of further appeal to the Supreme Court.

In determining the matter, Justice Bage declared: “This is one case in which leave is required, but was neither sought nor granted.

“As framed, it should not be a difficult task to examine and conclude that the Notice of Appeal in contention is one of mixed law and facts.

“This is because the ruling of the trial Court on the ‘No Case Submission’ necessarily involved a critical examination of the elements of each of the four counts for which the Appellant was charged before the trial Court to ascertain if a prima facie case has been made out to require his defence to those charges”.

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