On Thursday, the Attorney General of the Federation took over the case instituted by the Nigeria Police Force against Leo Ekpenyong, a human rights lawyer, who has written a series of petitions against the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State and Senate Minority Leader, Godswill Akpabio.
The case, which was filed in 2015 at the Upper Area Court in Abuja, followed a petition by the sacked Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC),
Mr. Ibrahim Lamorde, to the police against Mr. Ekpenyong.
Following the refusal by the then-EFCC Chairman to act on the petitions against Mr. Akpabio, Mr. Ekpenyong sent a petition to President Muhammadu Buhari expressing a Vote of No Confidence in Mr. Lamorde and demanding his removal as the Chairman of the EFCC.
Mr. Ekpenyong also granted an interview on the African Independent Television (AIT) during which he accused the former EFCC chief of having a compromised relationship with Mr. Akpabio.
Angered by the lawyer's actions against him, Mr. Lamorde wrote a petition against Mr. Ekpenyong. Acting on Mr. Lamorde’s petition, the police arraigned Mr. Ekpenyong before an Abuja Upper Area Court on a two count charge of "giving false information" and "injurious falsehood".
When the case came up in court on Thursday, a Law Officer from the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Habila Jonathan, announced his appearance in the matter and informed the court that the Attorney General had taken over the matter.
In an attempt to resist the Attorney General from taking over the case, the police prosecutor, insisted that the Mr. Jonathan identify himself as he did not believe that the law officer was from the Attorney General's office.
However, the objection of the police prosecutor was rejected by the Upper Area Court Judge, Justice Yusuf Gagarku. The judge stated that "the Attorney General is a law unto himself" based on the provisions of the Constitution and that even the court cannot question his powers. The Judge further stated that there was no reason to doubt the identity of the Law Officer, Mr. Jonathan.
Surprisingly, a media aide to the former Governor, Mr. Anietie Ekong, attended the court session on Thursday. He was seen speaking with the Investigation Police Officer (IPO), Ibe. The IPO, according to sources, has links to Mr. Akpabio.
This relationship seemed to confirm the allegation by Mr. Ekpenyong that the former Governor of Akwa Ibom State has a relationship with the sacked EFCC Chairman who is the complainant in the case.
Reacting to the development, a human rights lawyer and Convener of the Coalition of Human Rights Defenders (COHRD), Mr. Inibehe Effiong, expressed delight with the decision of the Attorney General to intervene in the case in the interest of justice.
"This is a great feat for the anti-corruption strides of the administration of President Buhari.
“The message today is that elements like Mr. Akpabio, who believe they can use their illicit lucre and their moles in the EFCC and the police to evade justice and silence whistle blowers, will not prevail in this new regime of change," Mr. Effiong declared.
Mr. Effiong called for the new EFCC leadership, under acting chair Ibrahim Magu, review the corruption charges leveled at Senator Akpabio in order to bring him to justice. The human rights lawyer even implied that the senator’s crime were more grievous than those of former National Security Adviser, Colonel Sambo Dasuki.
"What Dasuki did with the defence funds is a child's play compared to what Akpabio did with Akwa Ibom State resources. The Attorney General should enter a nolle prosequi [notice of abandonment by a plaintiff or prosecutor of all or part of a suit or action]
in the matter in the interest of justice," Mr. Effiong argued.
The case has been adjourned to the March 2, to enable the police to transfer the case file to the Attorney General.