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Ohakim v. Igwegbe: When a complainant turns a defendant

ohakim-v.-igwegbe:-when-a-complainant-turns-a-defendant

What could have informed the sudden change of mind by the prosecution in a criminal case brought by the police against a former Governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim? Perhaps, the picture may become clearer as events unfold, ERIC IKHILAE reports.

After a brief hide and seek, men of the Nigeria Police Force (NGF), on July 8 arrested Mrs Chinyere Amuchienwa Igwegbe while she was stepping out of the Federal High Court in Abuja.

Igwegbe had attended court to witness proceedings in a charge brought by the police against a former Governor of Imo State, Ikedi Ohakim; a case in which she was designated a nominal complainant.

On July 22, the police took her before a High Court of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) in Maitama, where she was arraigned before Justice Yusuf Halisu on a four-count charge.

She was, in the charge marked: CR/187/2021, accused of giving false information to the police, defaming Ohakim in a petition earlier written by her lawyer, indecently exposing her genitals, among others.

Some of the counts read: “That you Chinyere Amuchienwa Igwegbe ‘F’ of 7B Emelda Estate, Apo, Abuja, FCT between late 2017 and mid 2018 intentionally exposed your genital organs and intentionally caused distress to other parties and that you did so with a selfie video with the intention of deriving sexual pleasure from such act and you thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 26(3) of the Violence Against Persons (Prohibition) Act 2015.

“That you Chinyere Amuchienwa Igwegbe ‘F’ of 7B Emelda Estate Apo, Abuja, FCT on or about the 14th August 2020 did furnish police authorities with false information and via allegations in a petition by your solicitors, Agala & Agala  Chambers to a public servant against  Dr Ikedi Ohakim and Chinedu Okpareke on allegations of criminal conspiracy, criminal intimidation, defamation of character, attempted kidnapping and threat to life, punishable with imprisonment, which could not be substantiated and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 140 of the Penal Code Laws of Northern Nigeria.

“That you Chinyere Amuchienwa Igwegbe ‘F’ of 7B Emelda Estate Apo, Abuja, FCT sometime in 2020 did furnish police authorities with false information and via allegations in a petition by your solicitors, Agala  & Agala Chambers to a public servant against Dr Ikedi Ohakim on the false  allegations that you paid Dr Ikedi Ohakim the sum of N500 million only for the purchase of a land in Lagos during the 2019 election, punishable with imprisonment, which could not be substantiated and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 140 of the Penal Code Laws of Northern Nigeria.

“That you Chinyere Amuchienwa Igwegbe ‘F’ of 7B Emelda Estate Apo, Abuja, FCT on or about the 14th August 2020 did furnish police authorities with false information and via allegations in a petition by your solicitors, Agala & Agala  Chambers to a public servant against  Dr Ikedi Ohakim and Chinedu Okpareke on allegations of criminal conspiracy, criminal intimidation, defamation of character, attempted kidnapping and threat to life, punishable with imprisonment, which could not be substantiated and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 140 of the Penal Code Laws of Northern Nigeria.”

Although she pleaded not guilty when the charge was read to her, Igwegbe appeared not to have fully comprehended what was at play, particularly when the judge said he was not ready to hear her lawyer, Ifeanyichukwu Nweze who tried to explain how her client, who was a complainant in the earlier charge against Ohakim, ended up becoming a defendant.

While arguing his client’s bail application, Nweze told the court that a similar case, with the same parties, was pending before a Federal High Court in Abuja.

He added that the case before the Federal High Court, which the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) has indicated interest in taking over, has been adjourned till September for ruling.

Nweze said his client was arrested in court on July 8, 2021 while she had gone to observe proceedings as the nominal complaint.

Justice Halilu told Nweze that he was not ready, at this preliminary stage, to go into the history of the case. He granted bail to the defendant and adjourned till October 28 for the commencement of trial.

As he exited the courtroom, Nweze said he was optimistic that all that are currently hidden would be made public when trial opens in the case.

On her part, lawyer to the prosecution, Rotshang Dimka would not provide any insight.

Indeed, many are at a loss as regard the sudden turn of events in the case that began with a petition by Igwegbe’s solicitors at Agala & Agala Chambers, in which she raised sundry allegations against Ohakim.

After investigation, the police charged Ohakim before the High Court of the FCT, where he was later arraigned in November 2020 on a three-count charge marked: CR/993/2020, filed on September 23, 2020.

The charge read: “That you Ikedi Ohakim, on or about the 23rd day of May 2019 at Asokoro, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did unlawfully gave false information against one Chinyere Amuchienwa, that she threatened you with a gun knowing it to be false and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 140 of the Penal Code Law of the Northern Nigeria, 1968.

“That you Ikedi Ohakim, on or about the 23rd day of May, 2019, at Asokoro, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did unlawfully gave false information against one Chinyere Amuchienwa, that you have a plot of land for sale at Lagos state, knowing it to be false and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 140 of the Penal Code Law of the Northern Nigeria, 1968.

“That you Ikedi Ohakim on or about the 23rd day of May 2019 at Asokoro, within the jurisdiction of this honourable court did unlawfully used derogatory language against the name of Raji Fashola as the owner of the purported land situated at Ikeja, Lagos State and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 140 of the Penal Code Law of the Northern Nigeria, 1968.”


•Igwegbe…shortly after her arraignment

Before trial could commence at the High Court of the FCT, the police took the case before the Federal High Court, Abuja where they filed a five-count charge against Ohakim and one of his ex-aides, Chinedu Okpareke.

In the charge, marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/287/2020, filed in the name of the Inspector General of Police (IGP) by M. O. Omosun (of the NPF’s Legal Department), Ohakim and Okpareke were alleged to have harassed, intimidated and threatened to expose the nude pictures of Mrs Chinyere Amuchienwa through the internet network.

In count two, Okpareke, Ohakim and others now at large are said to have, on or about August 13, 2020, conspired “to cause annoyance and criminal intimidation to one Chinyere Amuchienwa (f) and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 27(1)(a) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention etc) Act 2015.”

They were, in count three, said to have, “by means of a computer system or network, send a nude picture, indecent obscene or menacing characters to one Chinyere Amuchienwa and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 24(1)(b) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention etc) Act 2015.”

In count four, they were alleged to have “knowingly and intentionally transmitted a communication through a computer system or network to harass and bully one Chinyere Amuchienwa and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 24(1)(a) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention etc) Act 2015.”

They were, in count five, alleged to have “knowingly and intentionally called and threatened one Chinyere Amuchienwa that she does not drop the First Information Charge of attempted kidnap against you and others at large, the nude pictures of the said Chinyere Amuchienwa will be posted to CNN and all over the world and thereby committed an offence punishable under Section 24(c)(1) of the Cybercrime (Prohibition Prevention Etc) Act 2015.”

Before Ohakim and Okpareke could be arraigned on the new charge, now before Justice Taiwo Taiwo of the Federal High Court, the office of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) intervened, with a plan to take over the prosecution of the case, a move the police have resisted.

The police is now praying to be allowed to discontinue the case.

When the case was last heard on July 8, a lawyer from the office of the AGF,  Bagudu Sani, told the court that the police have been requested to transfer the case file to office of the AGF.

Bagudu said the AGF filed an affidavit of compliance on July 2, 2021 with the intention to take over the prosecution of the case.

The police’s lawyer Dimka told the court that the police were opposed to the AGF’s move to takeover the case and filed a counter-affidavit to that effect on March 30, 2021.

Dimka adopted her counter-affidavit and urged the court to allow the notice of discontinuance earlier filed by the police and strike out the charge.

Lawyer to Ohakim, Emeka Etiaba (SAN) equally objected to the move by the AGF to take over the case.

Etiaba contended that the content of the affidavit of compliance filed by the AGF could not affect the notice filed by the police to discontinue the case.

He then urged the court to strike what the AGF filed.

After listening to arguments by the lawyers, Justice Taiwo adjourned till September 27 for ruling.

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