The High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Maitama, Abuja, on Thursday, rejected the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s request to have the President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Amaju Pinnick, joined as a defendant in a corruption case involving an alleged misappropriation of $9.5m FIFA grant.
The court also declined to join the NFF’s Secretary-General, Dr. Mohammed Sanusi, as a defendant in the case.
Ruling on the EFCC’s application, Justice Peter Affen held that it would amount to abuse of court processes to join the two men as defendants after they had been discharged by the Federal High Court in Abuja in respect of similar charges.
“There is an overlap of the charge before the Federal High Court and the charge sought to be amended,” Justice Affen ruled.
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court in Abuja had in November 2019 struck out the charges against Pinnick and others after the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation applied for the withdrawal of the charges.
The withdrawn case was instituted in May 2019 by the now-disbanded Special Presidential Investigation Panel on the Recovery of Public Property, which alleged that the defendants were involved in the alleged misappropriation of the sums of $8.4m and N4bn belonging to the NFF by the five defendants.
Apart from Pinnick and Sanusi, others named in the withdrawn charges were the NFF’s 1st Vice-President, Seyi Akinwumi; the 2nd Vice-President, Shehu Dikko and an Executive Member, Yusuff Fresh.
Also named as defendants in the charges instituted by the EFCC before Justice Affen of the FCT High Court were NFF’s Director of Administration and Finance, Christopher Andekin; cashier, Reagan Zaka, and Head, Finance and Accounts Department, Fadanari Mamza.
The EFCC had earlier arraigned the three officials of the NFF before the FCT High Court in the alleged $9.5m scam.
However, on March 1, 2019, the anti-graft agency, through its counsel, Steve Odiase, applied to amend the charges to enable it join both Pinnick and Sanusi as co-defendants in the case.
The defendants, however, objected to the application for joinder, on the grounds that it was an abuse of court process as they had been made to face similar charges before the Abuja Magistrate’s Court and the Abuja Division of the Federal High Court.
But Justice Affen upheld the objection on Thursday, as he held that it was an afterthought to seek to join Pinnick and Sanusi in the case as co-defendants, the EFCC having earlier listed them as witnesses.
The judge fixed April 30 for commencement of trial.