Contrary to earlier claim of voluntary withdrawal by Charles Adeogun-Phillips, the lead prosecutor in the trial of Supreme Court’s Justice Sylvester Ngwuta, the Federal Government has said it fired him for alleged conflict of interests.
Adeogun-Phillips led the prosecution team until February 9 when he announced his withdrawal from the case. He was silent on what informed his decision.
He was the leader of ‘Team 16’of the National Prosecution Coordination Committee (NPCC) saddled with the prosecution of the case involving Justice Ngwuta and three officials of the Supreme Court, including the Chief Registrar, Ahmed Gambo Saleh.
Saleh, Muhammad Abdulrahman Sharif and Rilwanu Lawal (both officials of the Supreme Court’s Accounts Department) were charged with alleged diversion of about N2.2billion and acceptance of gratification from contractors engaged by the court.
On February 7, the office of the AGF withdrew the nine-count charge, marked: CR/13/2016, filed against Saleh and others before the High Court of the Federal Capital territory (FCT) on November 3 last year. State’s lawyer, Mrs. Hajara Yusuf was silent on the reason behind the withdrawal.
Subsequent media reports, quoting some sources close to Adeogun-Phillips, however attributed his sudden withdrawal from Justice Ngwuta’s trial to his disagreement with the office of the AGF over its decision to discontinue the trial of Saleh and others, which is believed to have involved the largest amount of money – N2.2b.
But, the office of the AGF yesterday faulted such reports, claiming that the lawyer was sacked because he allegedly withheld information about his involvement in a case against the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Salihu Isah, Media aide to the AGF, Abubakar Malami (SAN), said in a statement yesterday that it was wrong for the AGF to retain Adeogun-Phillips while he was representing a private interest against a government agency.
Isah also faulted insinuation that the decision to discontinue Saleh and others’ trial had religious and ethnic undertone.
He said the charge against the Supreme Court officials was withdrawn because Saleh had agreed to serve as prosecution witness in Justice Ngwuta’s trial, which resumes today.
He said a letter disengaging Adeogun-Phillips sent to him on Februrary 6 was acknowledged on February 8.