Sunday, April 20, 2014

Court dismisses Babalakin’s ‘otapiapia’ suit to stop his arraignment by EFCC

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Wale Babalakin, [Photo: punchng.com]

Mr. Babalakin is being arraigned for alleged involvement in money laundering to the tune of N4.7 billion.

A Federal High Court in Lagos, Friday, struck out a suit filed by the Chairman of Bi-Courtney Highway Services, Wale Babalakin. Mr. Babalakin wanted the court to stop the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, from arresting and prosecuting him.

The judge, Mohammed Idris, struck out the suit instituted by Mr. Babalakin on November 29.

Mr. Idris, in his ruling over EFCC’s preliminary objection to the suit, struck out the suit for its failure to comply with Order 35 Rule 4 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules which required the applicant to depose to an affidavit after serving the court papers on the parties in the suit.

The judge held that failure to depose to such affidavit and file same before the court had robbed the court of its jurisdiction to entertain the matter.

The court also vacated the order it earlier granted the applicant permitting him to institute the prohibition suit against the EFCC and subsequently awarded N5,000 cost against the applicant.

An “Otapiapia” suit

Earlier, the EFCC counsel, Rotimi Jacobs, described Mr. Babalakin’s application before the federal court as an “otapiapia.”

Mr. Jacobs argued that the suit was instituted to “gag” the EFCC from performing its lawful public duties.

“It is my submission that this suit was instituted by the applicant, to gag the respondents from discharging their lawful public duties.

“The ambitious order sought by the applicant is like an ‘otapiapia’ (poison) or a weapon of mass destruction, and should not be allowed,” he said.

“The suit clearly depicts the picture of a drowning man, desperately searching for where to hang on, to avoid drowning.

“I therefore urge the court to dismiss this gagging suit, with cost which I suggest should be paid by the applicant’s counsel if possible,” he added.

Mr. Babalakin wanted the Federal High Court to bar the EFCC from prosecuting him at the Lagos High Court.

The corruption trial

The anti-graft commission had charged Mr. Babalakin along with Alex Okon and three other firms- Stabilini Visioni Limited, Bi-Courtney Limited and Renix Nigeria Limited- on a 27-count charge before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo of a Lagos High Court, Ikeja.

The commission said the accused helped former Delta State Governor, James Ibori, launder over N4 billion of Delta State funds.

The commission has been unable to arraign the accused due to Mr. Babalakin’s absence from court on two occasions..

Mr. Babalakin’s lawyers said he is sick and on admittance at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital.

The Lagos High Court on Thursday adjourned to January 17, 2013, the hearing of Mr. Babalakin’s pending applications and “possible arraignment.”

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