N47.1bn theft: Court dismisses Akingbola’s application challenging its jurisdiction
A Lagos High Court sit ting in Ikeja yesterday dismissed the application filed by the former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, Dr. Erastus Akingbola, challenging its jurisdiction to hear the alleged theft charges preferred against him.
The court presided by Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, in a ruling, declared that the charges preferred against Akingbola and co-defendant are withinn its competence and purview to determine.
Akingbola and co-defendant and former financial officer of the bank, Bayo Dada, had filed two separate applications before the court, seeking to quash the N47.1 billion theft charge preferred against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo, in a ruling on the applications, dismissed them for lacking in merit.
Akingbola and Dada had challenged the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the 22-count charge filed against them by the EFCC.
Chief Wole Olanipekun, the lead counsel to Akingbola, while arguing his application, had told the court that the subject matter of the alleged offences related to banking operations and capital market issues.
Olanipekun had submitted that only the Federal High Court had the jurisdiction to entertain such matters according to Section 251 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
He had cited a judgment delivered by the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division, on November 21, 2013 in a matter filed by a former Managing Director of Finbank, Okey Nwosu, against the EFCC to back his position.
According to him, the Appeal Court had dismissed the theft charge preferred against Nwosu on the grounds that the Lagos High Court lacked the jurisdiction to entertain the matter.
According to him, Akingbola’s case was similar to that of Okey Nwosu and that in view of this, the court should discharge his client.
Olanipekun had further argued it would amount to an abuse of court process for the court to open hearing into the matter as the defendants were currently facing a similar charge before the Federal High Court, Lagos.
Dada’s counsel, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), had also argued that the offences allegedly committed by his client related to buying and selling of shares on behalf of Intercontinental Bank.
But counsel to the EFCC counsel, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN), had countered their views.
Obla had urged the court to dismiss the two seperate applications and assume jurisdiction over the case.
He said the charge against the defendants borders on stealing which was different from that made against Nwosu.
Delivering his ruling, Justice Lawal-Akapo said the defendants were charged with stealing, obtaining money by false pretences and receiving stolen property which clearly distinguish it from Nwosu’s case which have its roots in capital market transactions.
The trial judge pointed out that the trial of the defendants failed at the Federal High court because the defence failed to produce the charges preferred against Akingbola at the Federal High Court.
He explained this had robbed the court from comparing both charges to determine if it was an abuse of court process or not.
Citing constitutional provisions and Advance Fee Fraud Act, Justice Lawal-Akapo maintained that the Lagos State High Court would continue to exercise same jurisdiction in concurrent with the Federal High Court.
He stated also that in line with these laws, the state high court had jurisdiction to try offences charged under the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act.
” The offences as charged are within the purview and competence of the state high court.
“As a result, I find no merit in the applications and they are hereby dismissed,” the judge said.
He therefore adjourned the matter till June 23, 2014 for re-arraignment of the defendants.