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Court strikes out case of forgery of tax clearence cert against Edo deputy gov

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AGENE GODWIN, Benin

A Benin High Court on Monday struck out the criminal trial case of alleged tax clearance certificate forgery against Edo state deputy governor, Hon. Philip Shaibu.

The powers of the court was drawn from section 308 of the 1999 Constitution which confers immunity against prosecution on Hon. Philip Shaibu who “has metamorphosed to a deputy governor.”

Justice Esohe Ikponmwen who struck out the suit marked 8/ ICPC/1/13 and dated October 8, 2013, insisted that the decision was based on Hon. Shaibu’s new status as the deputy governor of the state.

Shaibu was a lawmaker in the state House of Assembly, representing Etsako West Constituency II when he was alleged to have made a false statement to the officers of ICPC by claiming that he was an employee of Zanote Ventures Nigeria Limited from 2003 to 2006.

The accused was also said to have used the document to seek re-election to the state House of Assembly election.

Delivering the ruling on Monday, the trial judge, Justice Ikponmwen said: “the deputy governor of Edo state can no longer stand trial in this court by virtue of the immunity he enjoys under section 308 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” Consequently, he said, the proper thing to do is for the accused to be discharged.

Justice Ikponmwen dismissed the charges following the application of the Counsel to the accused, Ken Mozia (SAN) who cited relevant authorities to convince the judge.

But, the ICPC Counsel, Godson Igbadume, had earlier opposed the application of Mozia (SAN) over what he called prolonged adjournment to delay the trial.

It will be recalled that his trial had suffered setback when the court held that the tax certificate file got missing, following the death of the permanent secretary in charge of the Agency, Mr. Sunday Okundia, according to the former Acting Executive chairman of the Agency, Barrister Emmanuel Usoh.

The verdict of the court was delivered the same day, Monday, the deputy governor joined the state governor, Godwin Obaseki at the palace of the Oba of Benin.

Already, the decision of the court has sparked up excitement among members of the All Progressives Congress and their supporters.

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