Justice Sherifat Solebo of a Special Offences Court in Ikeja, has ordered that the case file of the chief executive officer of Golden Tulip Hotel, Amechi Ndili, to be returned to the Chief Judge for reassignment.
Justice Solebo gave the order as her statutory retirement date is approaching which might not permit her to complete the trial.
Amechi Ndili and two others, were scheduled to be arraigned before her today but the matter was stalled as a result of the health status of the second defendants, Njide Chizoba Ndili.
The Police had filed three count charges against Amechi Ndili, Njide Ndili and Lionstone Offshore Service Ltd. which border on stealing, contrary to section 516 of the Criminal Code law, Cap C38 laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
According to the charge sheet, the defendants between July 2012 and September 2013 in Lagos, allegedly stole by dishonestly converting the sum of $4,666,234.28 (four million, six hundred and sixty thousand, two hundred and Thirty Four and Twenty Eight Dollars, only) property of Hercules Offshore Nigeria Ltd. to their personal use.
Appearing before the court, the defendants’ counsel, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr. Ebun Shofunde, informed the court that Mrs Chizoba Ndili who is to be arraigned alongside with other defendants is sick and presently in hospital.
The learned silk prayed for an adjournment to enable the defendant appear for trial, while presenting a medical certificate from a private hospital to the court to affirm the health condition of Chizoba Ndili.
In a counter reaction, police counsel, ACP Simon Lough, expressed dismay over the development, urging the court to dismiss the prayer, noting that it was a ploy to frustrate the trial.
ACP Lough who pointed out that the matter had suffered series of set backs in the last seven years the police instituted the charges argued that the medical certificate presented to court contravened Section 198 of Administration of Criminal Law of Lagos state which stipulates that medical certificate should be produced from government hospital.
In a short ruling, Justice Solebo noted that the section the prosecutor sighted does not apply in this instance, as defendants have not been formally arraigned before the court, and then, advised that the matter be heard by another judge.
The judge said that in the interest of justice it would not be proper if she started the trial and was unable to complete it as she would soon retire from the bench.