MAN Oron Debunk Influencing Edet Okpo’s Prosecution for Cybercrime
…Says Case Still Valid Despite Misleading Media Report
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
The Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron has denied influencing the prosecution of one Mr. Edet Okpo, an Akwa Ibom State based journalist for cybercrime by the office of the Inspector General of Police (IGP); but only interested in seeing that the cause of justice is served.
The Academy through its legal representative also faulted a media report on the case with suit number FHC/CA/51c/2020 for presenting the Academy Rector, Commodore Duja Effedua as being behind the trial of the said Okpo by the office of the IGP; noting that the media report which is capable of misleading members of the public is false and unfounded.
The legal officer who does not want his name in print, described attempts to link Effedua to Okpo’s trial as pathetic and misleading, noting that the Rector is a nominal complainant who merely sought protection under the law against alleged threats and attempts to extort him and the Academy.
The lawyer argued that police department is open to all members of the public to report crimes and related matters that bothers them, noting that it is the prerogative of the police department to process all reports and or prosecute as they see fit; noting that the IGP did the right thing by getting the matter investigated and the suspects arrested for prosecution.
Commenting on the present status of the case which was struck out by the Calabar High Court on the ground of lack of jurisdiction, the Academy legal representative also explained that the current ruling has not in any way terminated the life span of the case.
He posits that the IGP has the moral and legitimate authority to enter a fresh suit, relying on the initial outcome of the police investigation on the matter; if he has reason to believe that the prosecution that failed at the Calabar High Court was poorly and deliberately handled.
He blamed the police prosecutor for lack of prosecutorial diligence, especially for adding extraneous charges not contained in the complainant’s allegation, which in the main truncated the case; and also expressed worry that the prosecutor may have deliberately compromised.
His words: “It is instructive that our Rector, nominal complainant sometime in 2020 had made a complaint to the Nigeria Police Force, Zone 6 Calabar, as it is his right as a citizen, against an unknown person who attempted to blackmail him and threatened to publish some false story, which the Rector dared the blackmailer to go ahead and publish before reporting the matter to the Police.
“The Nigeria Police Force did a diligent and perfect job and in the course of their investigation, tracked the telephone number to the Security man of the said Edet Okpo (the Defendant) and further tracked the Itel telephone used in the alleged crime to the sister of full blood of the same Defendant.
“The news article was written with a view to misinform the general public on the facts that transpired at the Federal High Court sitting in Calabar, and presided over by Honourable Justice Rosemary Oghoghorie on the 18th day of May, 2022. The Court, in its ruling over a preliminary objection challenging the territorial jurisdiction of the Court, struck out the charge filed by the Inspector General of Police against Edet Okpo.
“It is instructive that our Rector, nominal complainant sometime in 2020 had made a complaint to the Nigeria Police Force, Zone 6 Calabar, as it is his right as a citizen, against an unknown person who attempted to blackmail him and threatened to publish some false story, which the Rector dared the blackmailer to go ahead and publish before reporting the matter to the Police.
“The Nigeria Police Force did a diligent and perfect job and in the course of their investigation, tracked the telephone number to the Security man of the said Edet Okpo (the Defendant) and further tracked the Itel telephone used in the alleged crime to the sister of full blood of the same Defendant.”
The lawyer maintained that the trial judge also did a perfect job giving the circumstances of the prosecutorial submissions which alone weakened the strength of the case, and express the hope that the police authority will remedy the case and represent it based strictly on the facts of allegation and contrary to the prosecutor’s imaginary submissions.
“From the records of proceedings, it is clear that Honourable Justice Rosemary Oghoghorie handled this matter with such grace and fervor that speaks boldly about her stellar record as a judge. However, due to the territorial jurisdiction raised by the defense lawyer, the Court’s hands were tied and the matter was struck out for wants of territorial jurisdiction.
“It is pertinent to note that a matter that is struck out by the court does not remove or absolve a defendant from the alleged crime but only gives the police the opportunity to re-file the said suit in the appropriate jurisdiction. The faceless people behind the write-up are merely trying to mislead the public.”
He continues: “The Rector declined to join issues with the writer on this matter as same has not been dismissed but only struck out due to the poor conduct of the prosecutor. The Rector is still consulting with his lawyers as to the way forward and challenges the writer to publish the ruling of the court to enable the public to form an opinion as to what has transpired in this matter.
“ASP Alexander A. Ewa Esq may have deliberately bungled the case as one of his actions was that after granting administrative bail to the Defendant’s security man and sister who were initially charged as co-defendants in this matter, jumped police bail and even after charging them to Court, failed to take steps to either re-arrest the said persons or bring their sureties to the station to produce them.
“Furthermore, it is clear that the Rector at all material time was oblivious of the fact that the said charge was amended and the details contained in it. There was never a time that the Defendant was accused of Defamation or Advance Fee Fraud, and all the testimonies given by the Rector did not reflect or suggest any of these; hence is it shocking to discover that the prosecutor amended the charge and included Defamation and Advance Fee Fraud. The prosecutor also phrased the charges in the charge sheet in such a way that would make any honorable judge furious as to how the same was drafted.”
The Academy lawyer noted that suggestions by the said media report that the Rector merely picked on the defendant is belittling the status of the Rector, even as he expressed disappointment with the way and manner the prosecutor handled the case, arguing that the prosecutor betrayed himself through his body language that suggested he deliberately set out to obstruct the cause of justice.
“It is strange that out of the 68 million MTN subscribers in Nigeria with about the same number of different GSM telephone handsets, the SIM card/telephone number and the phone used in the alleged cyber stalking and attempt to extort the Rector was tracked to the security man and sister of the defendant respectively.
“At some point in open Court, the judge gave the prosecutor opportunities to deploy the right approach in the matter, which led the judge to lambast the prosecutor, because he was becoming irritating to everyone in court. But the Prosecutor still failed even though he had ample time to do the needful. The Rector had received prior warnings on the antecedents of the prosecutor but he chose to trust the Police to deliver on the matter, but his action has proven that the prosecutor is not to be trusted.
“The Rector is however confident that the Police authority would look into this matter when he petitions the prosecutor next week because it is clear to any right-thinking man that the prosecutor botched this case.”