The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), will today (Monday) drop charges initiated by the police against an Abuja-based lawyer, Mr. Leo Ekpenyong, who became an accused after alleging in a petition that a former governor of Akwa Ibom State, Godswill Akpabio, diverted billions of naira belonging to the state.
The police preferred against Ekpenyong charges of defamation and injurious falsehood before a judge, Yusuf Gagarku of the Upper Area Court, Gudu, Abuja, on November 5, 2015.
The charges were filed by the police based on a petition by the immediate past Chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Ibrahim Lamorde, alleging that Ekpenyong “injuriously” accused him of compromising the investigation of corruption allegations against Akpabio.
Sources in the Federal Ministry of Justice confirmed to our correspondent on Sunday that the minister had passed an instruction for the withdrawal of the charges since last year but that the relevant department of the ministry failed to comply with the minister’s directive.
The minister was said to have directed that the charges initiated against Ekpenyong be withdrawn because prosecuting him would not augur well “for the spirit of whistle-blower to thrive in the country.”
The source said, “Ekpenyong wrote separate petitions to the minister stating that his prosecution by the police and Lamorde were malicious and the minister agreed with him.
“The minister had given the instruction for the withdrawal of the charges since last year but for reasons nobody understands, the relevant department of the ministry failed to act on it.
“The decision to withdraw the charges was reached by the minister after due consultation with his aides.”
The withdrawal of the charges is coming at a time when the new leadership of the EFCC has indicated its interest to look into about seven petitions currently pending before the anti-graft agency against Akpabio.
Ekpeyong had sent several petitions to the EFCC accusing Akpabio, who is now the Minority Leader in the Senate, of embezzling the state’s funds while he was the state governor.
But in a dramatic twist, Ekpenyong ended up being the one charged with defamation of the then Chairman of the EFCC, Lamorde.