A Gudu Upper Area Court in Abuja on Friday discharged five persons, who allegedly purchased stolen booklets of Certificate of Road Worthiness, for want of diligent prosecution.

The defendants – Shehu Dalhatu, 45, Lawal Bello, 52, Ayobani Atayaro, 47, Gimba Baba, 39, and Alade Ezekiel, 38 – were first arraigned in May 2016.

The suspects were charged with criminal conspiracy and receiving stolen property.

They had pleaded not guilty and the presiding judge, Alhaji Umar Kagarko, ordered that they be remanded in prison custody pending conclusion of investigation by the police.

Seeking discontinuation of the case on Friday, Counsel to the defendants, Miss Mercy Ojene, prayed the court to strike out the matter and discharge the defendants for lack of diligent prosecution.

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Ojene said that the case had suffered several adjournments at the instance of the prosecution, who had failed to prosecute it.

“The defendants have never failed to appear in court, but the prosecution has always been found wanting.

“The prosecution has never produced any witness nor showed up in court.’’

Quoting relevant sections of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA), she urged the court to “strike out the matter in the interest of justice’’.

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She pointed out that justice delayed was justice denied.

At their arraignment in May 2016, the prosecutor, Mr Joshua Ayanna, had told the court that one Mr Folorunsho Martins, a resident of Kubwa in Abuja, had reported the matter to the FCT Police Command, in which he accused one Ayodele Joseph of theft.

“Martins reported that the said Joseph, a staff of Euphoria Press Ltd, stole three rolls of Certificate of Road Worthiness receipts containing 134 booklets, valued at N1.5million.

“During police investigations, it was discovered that the defendants, all staff of the Directorate of Road Traffic Service (DRTS), conspired and received the booklets at cheap rates.

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“They obtained these certificates and subsequently issued them, illegally, to members of the public at cheap rates and converted the proceeds to their own use,’’ Ayanna alleged.

He said that the offences were contrary to Sections 97 and 319 of the Penal Code.

At the hearing of the matter on Friday, the presiding judge agreed with the defendants’ Counsel that the prosecution had not demonstrated any commitment to the case. He, therefore, dismissed the case and discharged the suspects. (NAN)