Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Friday discharged and acquitted the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate in the last governorship election in Osun State, Senator Ademola Adeleke, in the alleged examination malpractice charge filed against him and four others.
Adeleke’s discharge and subsequent aquittal was due to the withdrawal of the criminal charge against him by the prosecution.
The Police had in 2018 arraigned Adeleke along with Sikiru Adeleke (who is said to be the senator’s relative), Alhaji Aregbesola Mufutau (the school principal), Gbadamosi Thomas Ojo (a school registrar) and Dare Samuel Olutope (a teacher) on a four count charge bordering on fraud.
However, after calling four witnesses in proof of the criminal allegations, the police on Thursday applied to withdraw the charge against Adeleke on grounds that he has not been available to continue trial since he was granted leave to travel abroad on medical grounds.
Delivering ruling in the police application, Justice Ekwo held that he was minded to discharge and acquit Adeleke in view of the prosecution’s decision to withdraw charges against him.
Justice Ekwo relied on Section 108(3) in making the order acquitting Adeleke.
Section 108(3) of the ACJA states: “In any trial before a court in which the prosecutor withdraws in respect of the prosecution of an offence before the defendant is called upon to make his defence, the court may, in its discretion, order the defendant to be acquitted if it is satisfied, on the merits of the case, that the order is a proper one, and when an order of acquittal is made, the court shall endorse its reasons for making the order on the record. ”
The court on May 6, 2019 granted Adeleke permission to travel to the United States on grounds of ill-health.
Since then, Adeleke has not returned for the trial to continue, even though the prosecution has called four witnesses so far.
On Thursday, prosecution lawyer, Simon Lough argued an application in which he sought to sever the charge, to exclude Adeleke from the trial in view of his continued absence.
Lough was of the opinion that the only way to prevent further delay in the case was to continue with the trial of the other available four defendants, since Adeleke has stayed away from the country, claiming to be sick and attending to his health in the US.
Lawyer to Adeleke, Alex Izinyon (SAN) and other defence lawyers in the case did not object to the prosecution’s decision to amend the charge.
They however disagreed with the prosecution on the appropriate order to be made; whether Adeleke should be simply discharged, based on the withdrawal of the charge against him, or whether he should be discharged and acquitted.