From Godwin Tsa, Abuja
The leadership crisis rocking the Assemblies of God took a criminal dimension yesterday, as the the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice [AGF], Abubakar Malami (SAN), took over the prosecution of former General Suprintendent of the church, Professor Paul Emeka, for alleged forgery of his professorial certificate.
The church has been embroiled in leadership crisis for more than two years, culminating into the emergence of two factional leaders and multiple court actions.
Emeka was alleged to have forged a University of Derby Professorial Certificate, which he purportedly claimed was awarded to him by the authorities of the University of Derby, Derbyshire, England on the 24th day of August 2005.
According to the direct complaint filed before the court, he was alleged to have presented himself to the Assemblies of God Nigeria, as a professor from the university and based on his claim, he was made one of the trustees of the church.
The Federal Ministry of Justice, which recently took over the case file from the police yesterday informed a Gudu Upper Area Court, in the Federal Capital Territory [FCT], Abuja, that it was taking over the prosecution of the case in line with the provisions of section 108 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act [ACJA], 2015 and the section 174 of the 1999 constitution.
When the matter was called yesterday, Mrs. I. A. Charles Okolie from the office of the AGF informed the court that the Attorney-General was taking over the prosecution of the case in the public interest.
She added that the above statutory provisions empowered the AGF to take over the prosecution or discontinue same without any explanation whatsoever so long as it is in the overall interest of the public.
Her move was, however, resisted by counsel to the defendant, J.U. Ajii, who drew the attention of the court to an order of the High Court of the FCT, staying proceedings at the Upper Area Court.
He argued that it would be against judicial precedents and disobedience to the hierarchy of the courts for the trial court to take further steps on the matter by granting the request of the AGF.
Ajii further moved the court to refuse the application, as the appropriate court to hear the said application was the FCT High Court issued by Justice K.N. Ogbonnaya.
The lawyer expressed shock over the presence of the prosecutor sent by the Attorney-General of the Federation.
Meanwhile, the trial Judge, Alhaji Umar Kagarko, told Barr J.U. Ajii, counsel to Emeka that he could not disobey the directives of the Attorney-General of the Federation.
The court adjourned the matter till 19th of September to enable the Attorney-General prepare and amend the charges to Read, “Federal Republic of Nigeria Vs Rev. Dr. Paul Emeka.”
The Registered Trustees of the Assemblies of God Nigeria filed a direct criminal complaint against Emeka at the Upper Area Court, Gudu, Abuja, in a case No. CR/1081/15 pursuant to Section 88(1) and 90 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015.
On the 4th of February, 2016, the Presiding Judge, Justice Umar Yusuf Kargarko, ordered the Nigeria Police Force to arrest and produce Emeka for trial.
The police, however, refused to obey that order despite the acknowledgement of the receipt of the Court Order by the Inspector General of Police Monitoring Unit on the 17th of February 2016.
Consequently, the Attorney General of the Federation, Mr. Abubakar Malami, who was contacted by the Counsel to the Incorporated Trustees of Assemblies Of God Nigeria, Barr Ifeanyi Nwaeze, directed the Director Of Public Prosecution(DPP) to take over the prosecution of the case.