Charles Adeogun-Philips, the lead prosecutor in the case against Supreme Court Justice Sylvester Ngwuta did not step down from the case, but was sacked by the FG for unprofessional conduct.
That fact was disclosed in a statement on Sunday by Salisu Isah, the special adviser to the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN). Isah said Adeogun-Phillips sack was conveyed to him in a letter by the National Prosecution Coordination Committee (NPCC).
“The report that he left in protest due to last week Tuesday’s dropping of charges earlier instituted against the Chief Registrar of the Supreme Court, Ahmed Gambo Saleh and two other officials of the apex court which he is also handling cannot be relied upon,” the statement said.
Adeogun-Philips’ services were withdrawn because he did not disclose a conflict of interest issue, as well as other reasons, according to Isah. The lawyer is handling a case against the EFCC in Lagos and is also handling the case instituted by the EFCC against Justice Ngwuta.
At the resumed hearing of Ngwuta’s case on February 9, Ageogun-Phillips announced his withdrawal but did not give any reason for his action.
Ngwuta is facing trial before Justice James Too on charges of money laundering, age falsification and illegal possession of multiple international passports, among others.
Isah said that the impression given by Adeogun-Philips suggesting that he withdrew from the case on his own volition was not true.
“The insinuation that the attorney-general withdrew the case against the three Supreme Court officials because they are Northerners is also unwarranted.
“The dropping of the suit was done in good faith and in the context of plea bargaining to achieve greater goals in the prosecution of the other bigger cases that are ongoing against Justice Sylvester Ngwuta among others.”
According to Isah, it is wicked and childish for anyone to allude undue colouration to an action taken in national interest and reduce it to a North/South thing with a view to confuse the discerning public.
“This is not the first time such process will be entered into in law, especially so as the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015 allows plea bargaining in line with national interest.
“And as a way of precedence, there was a time in the history of this nation that the allegations against Sgt. Rogers, who was accused of killing Kudirat Abiola, were stepped down for him to be used to testify against Maj Hamza Al-Mustapha.
“This was in the case between him and the Lagos State government over the killing of the wife of the acclaimed winner of the 1992 presidential election, late Chief M.K.O Abiola.
“It has now clearly shown that either corruption is fighting back or simply that some people want to be mischievous and to hoodwink and divert the estimation of Nigerians from the core issues at stake.”
He expressed concern that no one was talking about the unprofessional conduct of Adeosun-Philips who was handling a brief in an ongoing suit at the Federal High Court in Lagos against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
He said this amounted to a conflict of interest which he failed to disclose when being engaged.
NPCC, chaired by Malami, was inaugurated by Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo on May 27, 2016.
It is charged with assisting the Attorney- General in the exercise of his prosecutorial powers under Section 150 and 174(1) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; especially as it involves high profile criminal cases.