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Court Dismisses Obiano’s Application Seeking To Stop EFCC’s ‘N4bn Fraud Case’



Court Dismisses Obiano’s Application Seeking To Stop EFCC’s ‘N4bn Fraud Case’

The Federal High Court sitting in Abuja on Thursday dismissed the preliminary objection filed by former Governor of Anambra State, Willie Obiano against the N4 billion security votes-related fraud charges brought against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Delivering ruling in the said application, the trial Judge, Justice Inyang Ekwo held that the ex-governor cannot stop the EFCC from implementing the act that founded it as an anti-graft agency, adding that security votes emanates from Nigeria’s federation account.

Earlier, Prosecuting Counsel ,Sylvanus Tahir SAN had prayed the court to refuse the motion of the ex-governor.

Tahir contended that the Economic Governance Section of the EFCC is investigating the affairs of Anambra State under the stewardship of the defendant as governor between 2014 to 2022.

He added that the investigation was not restricted to Security Votes Accounts, contrary to the deposition in the governor’s legal team.

According to him, “That in the investigation into the financial affairs of Anambra State Government, the aspect bothering on laundering of funds from Security Vote Account has substantially been done leading to the filing of the instant charge, while other aspect of the investigation dealing with an allegation of stealing, corruption, abuse of office, conspiracy, etc are still underway and nearing completion.”

He, however, prayed the court to convict the governor on all counts.

In his own defence , Obiano’ through his counsel , Onyechi Ikpeazu SAN, filed a motion on notice seeking an order of the court quashing the instant charge for amounting to flagrant abuse of judicial process and a mockery of the criminal justice.

He submitted that no evidence showed his client passing down directive for the disbursement of security votes and other funds belonging to Anambra state government.

He informed the court that already an appeal has been filed by the Anambra state government challenging the powers of the EFCC to investigate the security vote of Anambra state government.

He said,”the defendant/applicant cannot be made answerable for any purported unlawful actions of officials of Anambra state government as there is no vicarious liability in our criminal jurisprudence.

“The thinking and conclusion of the prosecution on the counts arose from speculation and suspicions. The subject matter of the charge borders on accountability for security vote funds.

“The honorable court lacks the requisite jurisdiction to entertain issues on accountability for security vote funds.”

Ruling ,the Court held that on the issue of proof of evidence, the Federal High court is a court of summary jurisdiction in criminal proceedings.

He explained that summary jurisdiction excuses the use of proof of evidence prior to the commencement of trial.

“The submission of proof of evidence by the defendant is mistaken and not applicable in this court,” Justice Ekwo held while overruling the governor on the grounds of proof of evidence.

On the defendant’s argument that his client cannot be tried over security votes because an appeal had been filed, the judge also held that the appeal court judgement referenced by the defendant has been determined in EFCC’s favor by the Supreme Court.

“As long as the EFCC Act has not been declared unconstitutional, this court cannot stop the implementation of the act,” he held.

He further added that the powers of the EFCC ought to be a question of law and has bearing in the 1999 constitution.

He however observed that state security votes comes from the federation account making the development a constitutional issue.

“This court has no powers to preempt the case of the prosecution,” he held.

The court subsequently dismissed the ex-governor’s application.

“I find at this point that none of the provisions of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) upon which the applicant relied on in his application , has any bearing on this case. I make an order dismissing this application.

Ikpeazu thanked the court and then applied that the court should vary the bail granted to the defendant so that he can travel.”

The court later adjourned to June 24, 25, 26, 27 for trial.