A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday threatened to strike out a fraud charge preferred against a journalist, Doyin Abiola , and three others for lack of diligent prosecution. Justice Okon Abang gave the warning following the failure of the prosecution to get the accused to appear in court. Ms. Abiola, one of the wives of late MKO Abiola, winner of the annulled June 12, 1993 presidential election, and three others were charged with financial misappropriation. The others are Akinteye Ademola, Jerry Orimovuohoma and Oladapo Bello . Mr. Ademola is a former Managing Director of the defunct Integrated Micro-finance Bank , while Ms. Abiola and the others were directors of the bank between 2006 and 2008. The arraignment of the accused could not hold on Wednesday due to their absence in court. When the case was mentioned, the prosecutor, David Kaswe, informed the court that the prosecution was unable to secure the attendance of the accused in court. He, therefore, prayed the court to issue a bench warrant for their arrest. Counsels to the first, second and third accused, Jacob Ladipo , Tunde Awogbade and Toun Ashiri, respectively, objected to the adjournment and instead prayed the court to strike out the five-count charge. They argued that the prosecution had failed to serve the accused with the charge and proof of evidence, to secure a valid arraignment. They claimed that this, therefore, rendered the charge incompetent. Justice Abang ruled that since the accused had not been arraigned before the court, it had yet to assume jurisdiction to entertain the case, and consequently lacked the power to order the arrest. He said that the failure of the police to arrest the accused persons and produce them in court showed that the prosecution was not prepared to proceed with the case. "I will definitely strike out the charge, not on the account of the arguments of defence counsel, but if by the next date the prosecution is still unable to produce the accused in court. The police have the capacity to produce the accused persons in court; so, they should not come to seek the assistance of the court. "With respect to the objection to the charge, it is trite law that an accused must be present in court before their application can be taken. "I am not aware of any law, and the counsel to the accused persons have not cited any authority that their clients can stay in the comfort of their rooms and file an objection and expect the court to make a pronouncement on it. "I reluctantly adjourn this matter till Feb. 10 for arraignment," Justice Abang ruled. In the charge, the accused are alleged to have granted credit facilities to themselves and some companies to the tune of N327 million. The police also alleged that Mr. Akinteye, while serving as Managing Director of the bank, caused N131.2 million to be withdrawn by the Head of the bank's treasury, Adewale Ayoade , which he converted to personal use. The offence, the prosecution said, contravened the provisions of Sections 19 (1), (d); 20 (1) (a) and 23 (4) of the Failed Banks (Recovery of Debts) and Financial Malpractice in Banks Act, 2004 (as amended).
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