A Federal High Court in Abuja has ordered the remand of a suspended professor and his lawyer in Kuje Correctional Centre over allegations of sexual harassment and obstruction of justice.
Prof. Cyril Ndifon, the former Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Calabar (UNICAL), and his lawyer, Mr Sunny Anyanwu, were re-arraigned on Thursday before Justice James Omotosho on an amended four-count charge filed by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC).
The ICPC accused Ndifon of soliciting pornographic, indecent and obscene photographs from a female diploma student of UNICAL, identified as Miss TKJ (not real name), through his mobile phone number between May and September 2023.
The offence is said to be contrary to and punishable under Section 24 of the Cybercrime (Prohibition & Prevention) Act 2015.
The anti-graft agency also alleged that Anyanwu, on the prompting of Ndifon, called one of the prosecution witnesses on her mobile phone sometime in November 2023 and threatened her not to honour the invitation of the ICPC in respect of the criminal investigation against Ndifon.
The offence is said to be punishable under Section 182 of the Penal Code Cap. 532 Laws of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, 2006.
Both defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges and their bail applications were adjourned till Feb. 1.
Justice Omotosho had earlier granted Ndifon a temporary bail on Jan. 10 to enable him undergo a glaucoma surgery, which was scheduled for Jan. 11.
However, Ndifon’s lawyer, Solomon Umo, SAN, told the court on Thursday that the surgery could not be done as planned because some tests had to be carried out first.
He urged the court to hear Ndifon’s bail application before taking his plea on the amended charge, but the judge refused, saying he could not rely on the unverified hospital documents presented by the defence.
The judge also rejected Umo’s request to bar journalists from covering the trial, saying the media could be allowed access to the courtroom as long as they protect the identities of the witnesses.
“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.
The ICPC’s counsel, Osuobeni Akponimisingha, said the prosecution was ready to commence the trial and would tender documentary and video evidence to prove their case.
The case took a dramatic turn on Friday, when Justice Omotosho adjourned the hearing of the bail applications till Jan. 31, following Akponimisingha’s objection that he was just served with Ndifon’s further affidavit and needed time to study it.
The adjournment did not go down well with Umo, who argued that Akponimisingha was being economical with the truth and that bail was a constitutional right of his clients.
The judge, however, ordered Ndifon and Anyanwu to be remanded in Kuje Correctional Centre and granted accelerated hearing in the matter.