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Court sends suspended UNICAL prof, lawyer to prison

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A Federal High Court in Abuja, on Thursday, ordered the remand of Prof. Cyril Ndifon, the suspended Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Calabar (UNICAL), in the Kuje Correctional Centre.

Justice James Omotosho also ordered the remand of one of Ndifon’s lawyers, Mr. Sunny Anyanwu, in the correctional centre pending the hearing of their bail application.

Justice Omotosho gave the order after Ndifon and Anyanwu were re-arraigned on an amended four-count bordering on alleged sexual harassment and an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that while the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) is the complainant, Ndifon and Anyanwu are 1st and 2nd defendants in the amended charge marked: FHC/ABJ/CR/511/2023.

In count one, Ndifon was alleged to have, between May and September 2023 while being in the employment of UNICAL as Dean of Faculty of Law, caused one Miss TKJ (not real name), a diploma student of the university, to send pornographic, indecent and obscene photographs of herself to him through his mobile telephone number.

The offence was said to be contrary to and punishable under Section 24 of the Cybercrime (Prohibition & Prevention) Act 2015.

In count three, the lawyer was alleged to have, sometime in November 2023 or thereabout, in Abuja during the pendency of the charge filed against Ndifon and on the prompting of the professor, called one of the prosecution witnesses on her mobile telephone.

Anyanwu was alleged to have threatened her not to honour the invitation of the ICPC in respect of the criminal investigation against Ndifon, which conduct he knew was intended to perverse the cause of justice.

The offence was said to be punishable under Section 182 of the Penal Code Cap. 532 Laws of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, 2006.

NAN reports that Justice Omotosho had, on Jan. 10, ordered the release of Ndifon on a temporary bail to enable him go for a glaucoma surgery, which the defendant was scheduled to undergo Jan. 11.

The judge then adjourned until today (Jan. 25) for continuation of trial and to hear his bail plea.

He also directed Anyanwu to file affidavit of facts in response to allegations raised against him by the anti-graft commission that he threatened their star witness.

Upon resumed hearing on Thursday, ICPC’s counsel, Osuobeni Akponimisingha, informed the court that an amended charge, dated Jan. 19, was filed Jan. 22.

When the judge asked how Ndifon was faring after the surgery, his lawyer, Solomon Umo, SAN, told tye court that though the surgery was meant to be carried out, the result given to then showed that the surgery would have to be done in a later date.

Umo explained that based on the medical advice, some tests still had to be carried out to determine when the surgery would be carried out.

The senior lawyer therefore urged the court to hear Ndifon’s bail application before responding to the amended charge.

The judge, who declined the request, said he could not rely on the unverified hospital documents brought to court by the defence.

Akponimisingha then said that their witnesses were in court for the trial commencement.

He said documentary and video evidence would also be tendered and played to prove their case.

In that event, Umo asked if it would be possible to bar journalists from covering the trial.

Justice Omotosho declined the request.

He held that the media could be allowed access into the courtroom during the trial while they ensure that the identities of the witnesses are protected.

The judge said the witnesses could be given pseudo names to protect thier identities, and their photographs amd videos should not be posted on the internet.

“The court is ready to protect the identities of the witnesses.

“Therefore, all the young ladies who are alleged victims; their identities must be protected,” he said.

Justice Omotosho, who granted accelerated hearing in the matter, ordered Ndifon and Anyanwu to be remanded in Kuje Correctional Centre.

He adjourned the matter until Jan. 26 for continuation of trial and hearing of the bail application.

NAN

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