Obiano To Face Trial As Court Refuses To Revoke Charges

Justice Inyang Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja has dismissed a preliminary objection by former Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano, against fraud charges related to N4 billion in security votes.

The charges were brought forth by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The court on Thursday rejected Obiano’s motion that aimed to inhibit the EFCC from leveraging the powers granted to it under its founding Act.

Justice Ekwo clarified that the ex-governor’s security votes, which are derived from Nigeria’s federation account, are indeed within the jurisdiction of the EFCC to investigate.

The EFCC, represented by Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Sylvanus Tahir, argued against the motion last month, insisting that the commission’s investigation encompasses more than just the Security Votes Accounts.

Tahir highlighted that the Economic Governance Section of the EFCC is conducting a comprehensive review of Anambra State’s financial activities under Obiano’s governance from 2014 to 2022.

The prosecution stated, “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.”

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

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

The lawyer disclosed that there is already an appeal filed by the Anambra State government challenging the powers of the EFCC to investigate the security vote of Anambra state government.

He stated, “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.”

In his ruling on Thursday, Justice Ekwo 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,” Ekwo held while overruling the former 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 favour by the Supreme Court.

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

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

He 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,” Ekwo said.

Subsequently, the judge 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 application was not opposed by the EFCC while the judge granted the application and adjourned 24, 25, 26, 27 June for trial.

&copy 2024 Naija News, a division of Polance Media Inc.

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