Judge dismisses oil marketers’ application to quash subsidy fraud charges

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The Lagos judge ruled that the court had jurisdiction.

Justice Lateefat Okunnu of the Lagos High Court, sitting in Ikeja, on Wednesday dismissed an application brought by two oil marketers to quash the subsidy fraud charges against them.

Aro Bamidele and Abiodun Bankole had filed an application before the judge seeking to quash the charges brought against them and their company, A.B.S Investment Company Limited.

The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, had charged them with an 18 count of conspiracy, obtaining money by false pretence, and forgery; amounting to N1.3 billion.

The men, who had been arraigned since October last year, are accused of fraudulently obtaining the money from the Federal Government for the purported importation of 30 million litres of petrol.

Their counsel, Anthony Idigbe, said that the court lacks the jurisdiction to try them.

Mr. Idigbe, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, also prayed that the charges be quashed on the grounds that his clients were charged on the Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State 2003, which have been repealed.

In dismissing the applications, Ms. Okunnu stated that the questions on jurisdiction lacked merit, adding that the charges were validly instituted by both the Attorney General of the Federation and the EFCC.

“By the virtue of Section 211 of the Constitution and relevant provisions of the EFCC Establishment Act 2004, the Attorney General of the Federation and the EFCC can properly and validly institute charges with reference to laws enacted by the state House of Assembly in any court in the country,” Ms. Okunnu said.

The judge also dismissed the argument that the Administration of Criminal Justice Law of Lagos State prohibits the AGF and EFCC from prosecuting offences created by state laws in the state courts.

According to the judge, the EFCC being a federal agency can prosecute cases at the state high courts, same as the police prosecuting offenders at the magistrate courts.

“Provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Laws (in Lagos) must not be construed to defeat the provisions of the constitution,” said Ms. Okunnu.

The judge fixed May 20 to 23 for trial.