Court Dismisses Application To Free Akingbola of N47bn Theft Charges
A Lagos High Court in Ikeja on Friday dismissed an application by a former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, Mr. Erastus Akingbola, seeking to quash the charges of stealing N47bn preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EFCC is prosecuting Akingbola along with his business associate, Mr. Bayo Dada. Both were accused of defrauding the bank (now Access Bank Plc) and stealing its money in 2009 while Akingbola was its Managing Director.
In a ruling, Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo dismissed the two separate applications filed by Akingbola and Dada, seeking to quash the 22 counts preferred against them for lack of jurisdiction.
“I find no merit in the applications and they are accordingly dismissed,” the judge ruled.
Akingbola’s counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), had argued that the state High Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the charges because they were capital market and banking related.
Like Olanipekun, Dada’s counsel, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), had also maintained that only the Federal High Court had exclusive jurisdiction on the charges.
“This matter is advance fee fraud in form but capital market in substance,” Osipitan had said.
But the judge dismissed the lawyers’ contentions.
“Clearly, none of the charges are related to banking transactions. These are charges of stealing, receiving stolen property and advance fee fraud,” the judge held.
The court also distinguished the matter from the one in which the Court of Appeal quashed the charges instituted against a former Managing Director of Finbank Plc, Mr. Okey Nwosu, before another judge of the Lagos High Court, Ikeja.
Justice Lawal-Akapo said, “The offences canvassed in Okey Nwosu case had their roots in capital market. In the present case, the offences charged are stealing, receiving stolen property and advance fee fraud.
“Thus, I hold are the charges are within the confine of the state High Court.”
The judge also dismissed the allegation by Olanipekun that the charges instituted against his client amounted to double jeopardy and abuse of court process as similar charges had been instituted against him (Akingbola) at the Federal High Court, Lagos.
But the judge held that the defence failed to substantiate the allegation as it failed to produce the charges filed at the Federal High Court to assist the court in drawing it’s conclusion.
“I hereby presume that the failure of counsel to produce the charges and proof of evidence in the charge number FHC/L/CS/4436/2009 is that if they are produced they will be unfavourable tot the case of the applicant and I so hold,” the judge held.
He agreed with the prosecuting counsel, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), that section 251(3) of the Constitution had preserved the power of the court to try the defendant for the charges.