Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Group asks NJC to caution Justice Buba over Babalakin corruption trial

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Wale Babalakin

The group said Mr. Babalakin does not want to face corruption charges.

There is a plan by embattled lawyer and billionaire, Wale Babalakin, to set the Federal High Court against the Lagos High Court, an anti-corruption group, Civil Society Network Against Corruption, has said.

In a petition addressed to the National Judicial Council, NJC, the group stated that the “orchestrated” plan would expose the judiciary to ridicule before the Nigerian people as well as the international community.

Mr. Babalakin, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, is facing a N4.7 billion money laundering allegation by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, at a Lagos High Court.

While his alleged illness was stalling his arraignment before the court, Mr. Babalakin, through another team of lawyers, instituted a suit at the Federal High court urging them to stop the EFCC from prosecuting him.

The development forced the lawyer representing him before the Lagos High Court, Ebun Sofunde, to withdraw from the case.

On December 14, Justice Mohammed Idris of the Federal High court struck out Mr. Babalakin’s ‘otapiapia’ (rat poison) suit.

Undeterred by the judge’s ruling, Mr. Babalakin filed a similar suit before another judge at the Federal High Court.

Last Tuesday, Justice Ibrahim Buba granted the suit an accelerated hearing and ordered the EFCC to appear before him on the next adjourned date, on Friday.

The anti corruption group also urged the NJC to call Mr. Buba to order.

“From the information available to us, Justice Ibrahim Buba who has a record of frustrating corruption cases, has concluded arrangement to stop the EFCC from prosecuting Dr. Wale Babalakin in any Court of law in Nigeria,” read the statement signed by Olanrewaju Suraju, the group’s Chair.

“Since the same Federal High Court presided over by Justice Idris has thrown out Dr. Babalakin’s suit, our network is surprised that Justice Ibrahim Buba has turned himself into an appeal court over the same case,” he added.

Mr. Ibrahim, it was gathered, had granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the EFCC from arresting or prosecuting Peter Odili, the former governor of Rivers State.

The anti corruption group further urged the NJC to stop Mr. Buba from restraining the EFCC from prosecuting the Bi-Courtney boss “who has sworn never to stand trial before the Lagos High Court.”

“We urge the NJC to investigate the circumstances surrounding this case by Justice Ibrahim Buba and impose appropriate sanction against him.

“Also, Dr. Babalakin should be referred to the Legal Practitioners Privileges Committee for appropriate disciplinary measures for conducts unbecoming of a Senior Advocate of Nigeria,” the group stated.

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