N650 Fraud: Ex- Senator’s Objection To Court’s Jurisdiction Stalls Akinjide, Others Trial
The trial of former Minister for Federal Capital Territory, Oloye Jumoke Akinjide and two others over alleged N650 million fraud could not proceed today as a former Senator representing Oyo Central Senatorial District, Ayo Ademola Adeseun challenged the powers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to try him.
The anti-graft agency had on January 16, re-arraigned Adeseun alongside a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Oloye Jumoke Akinjide and a politician, Chief (Mrs) Olanrewaju Otiti, before the court on a 24-count charge.
Following their arraignment, Justice Muslim Hassan fixed today for the commencement of trial of the three accused persons.
However, when matter resumed for hearing today, Adeseun’s lawyer, Micheal Lana, informed the court that he has filed two motions on behalf of his client.
He said one of the motions has to do with the faulty procedure adopted by the EFCC in initiating criminal proceedings against the defendants while the other is challenging the court’s jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
On the first motion, Lana argued that contrary to the provisions of Section 382 (1) (2) (4) and (6) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, his client was never served with either the charge or notice of trial by the court.
“Prosecution starts from arraignment of the defendants, but where there was no service, all actions taken in the proceedings become a nullity. Section 382 of the ACJA said that it is the court that should serve the charge through the bailiff and not the prosecutor’, he said.
On the second motion, the lawyer argued that the charge which was brought under the Money Laundering Act has no linkage with any of the items listed under Section 251 of the Constitution.
He said, “None of the 24 counts as listed in the charge relates to items listed under Section 251 of the Constitution upon which the Federal High Court can adjudicate upon. Section 20 of the money laundering Act is limited by the provisions of Section 251 of the Constitution. We urged the court to grant these applications”.
Other defence lawyers, Chief Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN) and Akinola Oladeji, also urged the court to grant the applications.
Responding, EFCC’s lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to dismiss the two applications for being frivolous.
On the first motion, Oyedepo argued that the charge was validly laid before the court.
He noted that Section 382 of the ACJA does not affect the validity of the charge, but merely provides for requisite notices to be issued by the trial court on the defendants upon the assignment of the case within 10 days.
He said, “The subsequent assignment of this case to this court and pursuant to the notices issued by this court to parties is not only a substantial compliance with Section 382 of the ACJA but has also rendered the motion academic. I urged the court to consider the motion with the substantive issue raised in our charge and deliver ruling on the motion in the course of judgement in the matter pursuant to Section 396 (2) of the ACJA”.
On the second motion, Oyedepo maintained that the Federal High Court is the only court empowered by an Act of the National Assembly to adjudicate on the matter.
“The charge before the court can be subsumed in Section 251 (1) Paragraph 1 of the Constitution. The fact of the case ensued from the management of a federal government agency which is the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)”, he said.
Ruling on the applications has been reserved while trial of the accused persons is expected to commence tomorrow.