By Gbenga Ogunbufunmi
Former Senior Special Assistant to President Goodluck Jonathan on Domestic Affairs, Dr. Emmanuel Waripamo-Oweu Dudafa, today, urged the Federal High Court, Lagos to dismiss the amended charge filed against him on alleged N1.6 billion fraud.
Dudafa alongside Mr. Iwejuo Joseph are being tried before Justice Mohammed Idris on the alleged offences by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Upon close of the prosecution’s case, the Prosecutor, Mr. Rotimi Oyedepo, informed the court of his agency’s intension to amend the charge, which was vehemently opposed by the duo of Dudafa and Joseph.
At the resumed hearing of the matter today argument ensued on the amended charge.
Dudafa’s lawyer, Mr. Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), while arguing the preliminary objection to the EFCC’s amended charge, urged the court to discountenance it as it constitute a new charge which the judge lacked jurisdiction to entertain, as his court is a special court made to hear only part-heard matters.
“Our contention is that section 396(7) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act (ACJA) 2015, is that this court is a special court which cannot take a new charge. With the new charge, defendants will have the rights to recall all the witnesses that had been called. And the court is to conclude part-heard matter within a reasonable time and this new charge has to start ‘denovo’ (afresh), meaning that my Lord cannot preside over new charge as the court is a special one not meant for new charges”, Oyewole submitted.
Oyewole, SAN, also told the court that the EFCC’s amended charge will be prejudice to his client.
” The anti-graft agency knew they can’t sustain the old charges that was why it filed the amended charge.” He said.
In the same vein, Joseph’s lawyer, Mr. Ige Asemudara, also urged the court to decline jurisdiction in entertaining the EFCC’s amended charge against his client.
Asemudara told the court that as presently constituted it has been given task of concluding matters that are partly heard within a reasonable time, not to disturb the sitting of the judge at the Appeal Court.
Asemudara cited sections 474 and 396(7) of ACJA, saying that prosecution has ample opportunity to amend the charge before the judge was elevated to the Appeal Court,adding that the agency cannot bring amended charge before the court as presently constituted.
He therefore urged the judge to decline jurisdiction on the amended charge.
Responding, EFCC lawyer, Mr. Oyedepo, while urging the court to allow the amended charge stated that there is no time the prosecution can not amend charge once judgment has not be delivered.
Oyedepo in his submission said despite conceding to the defence team that they can recall their witnesses in the amended charge, he said the prosecutor will not call any witness in the amended charge.
He said: “I concede upon amended of the charge that the defendants have the right to recall their witnesses. We are not adducing fresh allegations, the prosecution has the power to amend the charge before judgment. We are not calling any witness.
“We therefore urged the court to allow the amendment of the charge”.
However, under reply on point of law, both Oyewole (SAN) and Asemudara, urged the court not to entertain the amended charge as it has no jurisdiction to hear new charges being a special Court.
After hearing the submissions of both parties, Justice Idris, adjourned the matter till Friday, for ruling.
During the trial, Joseph in his testimony, had insisted that he only acted as an account officer to some companies listed in the charge.
He blamed EFCC for his travail saying his refusal to implicate Dudafa landed him in trouble.
“Upon my arrival at the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), when I was invited, I was told by some EFCC’s operatives that I was not the target of their investigation, but Dudafa.
“They added that if I cooperate with them, I will be left off the hook, but if I refused to implicate the first defendant (Dudafa), I will be prosecuted for the sins of another person.
“I told them that I can’t understand what they mean and they ask me if I have a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who would be ready to defend me and that I should be prepared for the consequences if I refused to cooperate”, he said.
In his own evidence, Dudafa said the N1.6 billion linked to him by the EFCC was proceeds of donations towards a church project.
Dudafa told Justice Idris that the money was part of the N6 billion realised from the launching towards the building of St. Stephen’s Youth Development Centre, Otuoke, by the Anglican Communion of Otuoke community.
He said: “From my interactions with former President Goodluck Jonathan, I know that the funds were proceeds of a launching that was conducted by the Anglican Communion of Otuoke community for the building of St. Stephen’s Youth Development Centre, Otuoke. The launching which was done in Lagos on March 16, 2013, was organised by the former president as a member of the Anglican Communion and the grand patron.
“About N6 billion was realised from the event. Several persons made various donations at the event while the chief launcher, Prince Arthur Eze, donated $10 million (about N1.8 billion). The donation by the chief launcher was a pledge which he promised to fulfill in piece-meal.
“When Prince Eze started redeeming his pledge in piece-meal, the former president directed that I get somebody in the private sector that will be able to keep the fund.
“I then brought in a friend, Somprie Omiebi, who later opened an account with a bank in Bayelsa. The naira denominated account was opened to keep Prince Eze’s money.
“Anytime Prince Eze brought any money, the former president will direct that I link up with a Bureau De Change (BDC) operator who will remit the money directly to the account opened by Somprie Omiebi.
“The companies listed in the charge are not known to me and I am not a signatory to their accounts. I am also not a Director. I know Somprie Omiebi as someone in the private sector that brought those accounts and the companies to the former president and his wife for the safekeeping of their money. Omiebi is the only person that knows the details of the various accounts”, he had added.