Supreme Court slams N1m fine against Dankofa, reprimands lawyer for delayed adjudication

By Ralph Christopher

The Supreme Court has directed Barr. Yusuf Dankofa, to, without any further delay, enter his defense in a four-count charge bothering 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 for allegedly “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 Justice 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, on a no-case submission he made on the charges, overruled and asked him to immediately enter his defense.

Apart from that, Dankofa was instructed to pay the sum of N1 million as cost, payable personally.

Dankofa appealed 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 for being incompetent.

Being dissatisfied he filed a Notice of Appeal of three grounds dated 20th February, 2014.

Delivering the ruling of the apex court, 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 doubt, 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 N1 million against the Appellant, payable personally”.

Barr. Dankofa was arraigned at the High Court of Kaduna State on a four-count charge of 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, and 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, the appellant went to the Court of Appeal, Kaduna Division.

He objected to 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 struck out same.

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

Being dissatisfied, the Dankofa appealed 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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