By Taiye Agbaje
A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Tuesday struck out a suit filed by Sen. Grace Bent against Precious Chikwendu, wife of former Aviation Minister, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode.
Justice Obiora Egwuatu threw out the suit for want of diligent prosecution.
It would be recalled that Bent, through the Nigerian Police, instituted the case against Chikwendu, the ex-beauty queen in 2021.
She was on March 10, 2022 arraigned by the police on allegations bordering on defamation of character and cyberstalking.
But the defendant pleaded not guilty to the charge and the judge admitted her to bail in the terms of the administrative bail earlier granted her by the police.
Though Chikwendu and the ex-minister were in court on March 29 when the matter came up, the prosecuting lawyer was conspicuously absent and no reason was given for the non-appearance, forcing the judge to fix the matter for May 9.
When the case was called up for hearing on Tuesday, the prosecuting lawyer, N.D. Elodimuo, said though the matter was slated for hearing and he was ready to go on, their witness was not in court.
Elodimuo then asked for a short adjournment.
But Chikwendu’s counsel, Emeka Uchegbulam, disagreed with Elodimuo on his application for a short adjournment.
Uchegbulam prayed the court to dismiss the suit for lack of diligent prosecution.
According to him, from the date this matter was filed, they have not shown diligence in prosecution.
“This has been the attitude in every appearance,” he said.
“When a prosecution has not shown any diligence in prosecuting a case, the only option left for the court is to dismiss it.
“We urge the court to so hold,” he added, citing previous case to back his argument.
Elodimuo, who objected to Uchegbulam’s application, said Section 396(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 provided that, each party was entitled to fair hearing, and that the defence had not shown reasonable ground for a call for the dismissal of the suit.
Justice Egwuatu told Elodimuo that he expected him to apologise for the absence in the last adjourned date “but you just stepped into court as if nothing happened.
“You did not even give any reason why your witness is not in court.”
When the judge asked him if they had other witnesses in the matter, the lawyer said though the IPO was a witness, the officer was on official duty.
“When did you file this charge?” Justice Egwuatu asked.
“We filed it in 2021,” the lawyer responded.
In a ruling, the judge struck out the charge for want in diligent prosecution.
He held that the prosecution, apparently, was not ready to prosecute the matter.
Chikwendu who had been in court for no fewer than 11 times since the matter began, was sighted alongside her husband, Mr Fani-Kayode, feeling elated. (NAN)(www.nannews.ng)
Edited by Sadiya Hamza