Justice James Omotosho of the Federal High Court, Abuja has again ordered that Professor Cyril Ndifon, the suspended Dean of Faculty of Law, University of Calabar (UNICAL), be remanded at the Kuje Centre of the Nigerian Correctional Service again pending the conclusion of his bail application.
This is even as the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) applied to the Court to substitute the earlier charge. This was granted with the addition of one Barrister Sunny Anyanwu as 2nd Defendant.
Barrister Anyanwu, before now was one of the lawyers representing the first defendant in Court but was later joined in the suit over an allegation that he threatened one of the star witnesses ICPC lined up for the trial.
Professor Ndifon was first ordered to be remanded at Kuje Centre of the Nigerian Correctional Service on the 8th of January, 2024 pending the conclusion of his bail application.
He was granted a temporary bail on January 10, 2024to enable him go for a glaucoma surgery scheduled for January 11, 2024.
At the commencement of the main trial on Thursday, Counsel to the ICPC, Dr. Osuobeni Ekoi Akponimisingha, sought the leave of Court to substitute the earlier charge dated and filed 30th October 2023 with an amended charge dated 19th day of January, 2024 and filed on the 22nd day of January, 2024.
Count 4 of the amended charge reads: “That you Professor Cyril Osim Ndifon (M) and Barrister Sunny Anyanwu (M) sometime in the month of November, 2023 or thereabouts, at Abuja within the Jurisdiction of this Honourable Court did conspire among yourselves to call “TKJ” (Not real name) on her mobile telephone number: 070**********, a prosecution witness in charge number FHC/ABJ/CR/511/2023 between Federal Republic of Nigeria and Professor Cyril Osim Ndifon during the pendency of the said criminal charge and threatened her not to honour the invitation of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission in respect of the criminal investigation against Professor Cyril Osim Ndifon which conduct, you both knew was intended to perverse the cause of justice and you thereby committed an offence contrary to and punishable under Section 182 of the Penal Code Cap. 532 Laws of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, 2006.”
The two defendants however pleaded not guilty when the amended charges were read to them.
Their plea set the tone for the commencement of trial as Counsel to the ICPC, Dr. Akponimisingha, informed the Court that some of the Commission’s witnesses were in Court and were ready to proceed to trial.
The defendants’ lawyer, Mr. Okon Efut, SAN however differed and prayed that the bail application hearing for the first defendant be concluded before the commencement of the trial and his formal response to the amended charges.
He hinged his argument on a medical report that ‘recommended’ an extension for the planned glaucoma surgery for the first defendant.
The presiding judge however ruled that since the medical report requesting for the extension was not formally filed in Court, the main trial would continue as the Court would not rely on a document that was not before it.
Shortly before the first prosecution witness was called, Justice Omotosho directed that members of the press covering the Court proceeding should not take or publish pictures of any of the witnesses that would appear in Court neither should their real names be mentioned as the Court wish to protect them against any form of persecution.
In her examination, the first prosecution witness, an investigator with the ICPC told the court how the first defendant (Professor Ndifon) was arrested following a petition on sexual harassment, official corruption and abuse of office was submitted against him.
She also told the court that some nude pictures and videos of certain contacts (who were students of the first defendant) were found in his phone when his WhatsApp messaging application was subjected to forensic examination.
The presiding judge adjourned the hearing of the trial and the ruling on the bail application for Friday, 26th of January, 2024. He also ordered the remand of the two defendants at the Kuje Centre of the Nigerian Correctional Service.