Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Monday fixed September 26 for mention in an alleged fraud case involving President of the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF), Amaju Pinnick and four others.
The Special Presidential Investigation Panel (SPIP) is prosecuting Pinnick and his co-defendants on a 17-count charge bordering on criminal breach of trust and fraud to the tune of $8.4m.
However following the absence of the defendants in court, Justice Ojukwu consequently issued a bench warrant for the arrest of the 2nd to 5th defendants.
Those being prosecuted alongside Pinnick include; NFF Secretary, Sanusi Mohammed; the 1st Vice-President, Seyi Akinwumi; the 2nd Vice-President, Shehu Dikko and an Executive Committee member, Yusuf Fresh.
The defendants who are also charged with failure to declare their assets, are accused of stealing $8.4 million, paid by the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) to Nigeria for participating in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The NFF officials are also accused of taking cash through a web of schemes, including payments received for “fake friendlies” — games that never happened — as well as unexplained payments to match-agents.
At the resumed hearing, counsel to the NFF officials, explained to the court why the defendants were not in court to take their plea.
He said his clients are currently on a national assignment in the Arab Republic of Egypt, where Nigeria’s Super Eagles is participating in the ongoing 32nd Africa Cup of Nations finals.
In a short ruling, Justice Ojukwu then issued a bench warrant for the 2nd to 5th defendants , exempting the 1st defendant, Pinnick who is also President of the AFCON Organizing Committee, to be produced at the next sitting in court.
Justice Ijeoma made it clear that the warrant would cease to be of any effect once the defence counsel is able to produce evidence that the 2nd to 5th defendants were listed among the delegates to be in Egypt.
The judge did not hear the application of the NFF officials challenging the jurisdiction of the SPIP.