Friday, May 31, 2019 3:16 am
Justice Rilwan Aikawa presiding over a Federal High Court in Lagos south west Nigeria on Thursday dismissed an application filed by Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State seeking to quash the N1.4 billion alleged fraud charge slammed on the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Mr. Paul Usoro (SAN) by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The governor had in the application stated that the inclusion of his name on the charge by the anti-graft agency had rendered it null and void.
He urged the court to decline jurisdiction to entertain the case because as a sitting Governor, he cannot be prosecuted by virtue of the immunity granted him by Section 308 of the Constitution.
He added that the EFCC has no ‘locus standi’ to charge any of his aides to court because the fund which is the subject of the suit belongs to Akwa Ibom State Government.
However, in a ruling on the motion, Justice Aikawa while agreeing with the Governor that he is constitutionally immuned from prosecution, said he is not a defendant in the case.
The judge held that the mere mentioning of the Governor’s name in the charge does not mean he is facing trial.
“It is not in doubt that the applicant belongs to a class of citizens who enjoys immunity from criminal prosecution. He cannot be charged for any criminal offence for now.
“But, the question is; is he really facing trial before the court? In this case, the complainant is the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the main defendant is Paul Usoro (SAN).
“Therefore, the mere mentioning of the Governor’s name in the charge does not mean he is facing trial. It is not enough to qualify him as a defendant.
“The applicant is not part of this trial. Counts 1 to 4 remains mere statement and nothing more. They have not graduated to the status of a charge”, the judge held.
Justice Aikawa also dismissed claims by the applicant that the EFCC lacks the powers to file charge against any of his aides.
He said the anti-graft agency can validly commence action of money laundering against any person either at the Federal or State High Court.
Justice Aikawa consequently dismissed the motion for lacking in merit and fixed 3rd July, 2019, as date to commence Usoro’s trial.