The Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday ordered that the President of the Nigeria Football Federation, Mr. Amaju Pinnick, and four other officers charged with fraud involving the sums of $8.4m and N4bn, should be served with the copies of the charges through their offices.
It is mandatory that criminal charges must be served personally on a defendant, but can be served through any other means with the express permission of the court. Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu made the order for substituted service of the charges on the defendants on Tuesday after the prosecuting counsel, Dr. Celsius Ukpong complained that the defendants, who are all NFF officials, had been evading personal service. Ukpong, who is prosecuting the case on behalf of the Special Presidential Investigation Panel and the Recovery for Public Property, said the defendants were granted bail but all efforts to get them served with the charges had proved abortive.
He informed the judge of his pending ex parte application which he had filed to request the permission of the court to serve the defendants through substituted means. He said, “We have not been able to serve the defendants with the copies of the charges. “As a consequence, we have filed an ex parte motion for substituted service. “The defendants are evading service. “We have been to their offices. They are on what we call administrative bail. “But (we)have been calling them to come to pick up the copies to their charges and we have been to their offices to serve them, all to no avail. “We want to serve them through their offices by virtue of section 125 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act.” None of the five defendants or their lawyers was present in court when Ukpong moved his ex parte application on Tuesday. Ruling, Justice Ojukwu granted the application as requested.
She then adjourned till July 1 for arraignment. The Federal Government, through the SPIPRPP had on May 7, 2019 filed the 17 counts of fraud against Pinnick and four other officers of the NFF. The other defendants named in the case marked, FHC/ABJ/CR/93/2019, are, the Secretary of the NFF, Sanusi Mohammed; the 1st Vice-President of the Federation, Seyi Akinwumi; the 2nd Vice-President, Shehu Dikko, and an Executive member of the federation, Yusuff Fresh. The prosecution accused them of misappropriating $8,4m said to have been paid by FIFA to the NFF. It was alleged that the fund was paid by FIFA to NFF as Nigeria’s appearance fees in the group stage of the Brazil 2014 World Cup.
The five defendants were also accused of “moving dishonestly and intentionally the sum of about N4bn” belonging to the NFF without the consent of the NFF. The Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla-led SPIPRPP, which instituted the case also accused the defendants of failure and neglect to declare their assets. The prosecution accused the defendants of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust, theft, criminal misappropriation in respect of their handling of the $8,400 and N4bn belonging to NFF. The offences were said to be contrary to and punishable under various provisions of the Penal Code (Cap 105) LFN. It specifically accused Pinnick of appointing a company he had interest in, Financial Derivatives Limited as financial consultant to the NFF contrary to section 5 of the Code of Conduct Bureau and Tribunal Act and punishable under section 1(2) and 10(1)(a) of the Recovery of Public Property (Special Provisions) Act, 2004. It also accused Dikko of allowing Mediterranean Sports Limited to be appointed as a marketing agent to NFF in violation of the same provision of the same Act.