Exclusive: More troubles for Babalakin; judge says he must face trial

Wale Babalakin

Mr. Babalakin’s ploy to get the order barring his arrest and prosecution was blocked by the judge.

There is no order from any court barring the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, from prosecuting billionaire lawyer and embattled Chairman of Bi-Courtney, Wale Babalakin, for corruption, PREMIUM TIMES can reveal.

Contrary to the reports in several media that Mr. Babalakin secured a court order from a Federal High Court in Ikoyi, Lagos, barring the EFCC from prosecuting him, the judge, Mohammed Idris, never issued such order.

The commission is already prosecuting Mr. Babalakin for allegedly helping a prisoner and former Governor of Delta State, James Ibori, launder N4.7 billion of Delta State funds.

Mr. Babalakin was set to appear before a Lagos High Court, in Ikeja, on Thursday to face the charges. The businessman had earlier appeared at the EFCC’s office on Monday where he pleaded for an administrative bail, promising to appear in court on Thursday. The commission granted him the bail.

However, on Thursday, hundreds of observers and journalists present at the court were disappointed as Mr. Babalakin failed to appear in court, with his lawyer, Ebun Sofunde, telling the court that his client suddenly fell ill.

“I have been further informed that sometimes last night, because his condition deteriorated, he was taken to LUTH (Lagos University Teaching Hospital) where he is presently on admission,” Mr. Sofunde said.

While journalists were gathered at the Lagos High Court however, Mr. Babalakin was secretly seeking succour at Mr. Idris’ court.

The ‘order’

Mr. Babalakin asked Mr. Idris for three reliefs: the first an order to permit him to file an application that would bar the EFCC and other government agencies from prosecuting him; the second an order restraining the EFCC from further prosecuting Mr. Babalakin at the Lagos High Court; and the third an order that would bar the EFCC, the police and other security agencies from “arresting, harassing, or detaining,” the billionaire.

Mr. Idris outrightly refused relief two and three.

“The Reliefs 2 and 3 are hereby refused and same are accordingly struck out,” the judge ruled.

He granted relief one which allows Mr. Babalakin to now file an application before the court. The application if filed and granted would prevent the EFCC from continuing with the case.

By the judge’s ruling on the three reliefs, Mr. Babalakin has no injunction barring his prosecution for money laundering before the Lagos High Court.

It is however still unclear how the media was manipulated into spreading the false rumour that the accused got an injunction barring his prosecution. Many of the reporters for various media houses were at the Ikeja court unaware of Mr. Babalakin’s ploy at the Federal Court on the Island.

Also, lawyers knowledgeable about the case say Mr. Babalakin’s action was an abuse of court process.

 

The abuse

One of the basis of Nigerian law taught to all law school students is that a state High Court  has concurrent jurisdiction as a Federal High Court, meaning none is superior to the other.

“If Babalakin, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, can abuse court processes to the extent of asking a Federal High Court to stop a Lagos High Court from proceeding with a case, what will he be teaching young lawyers in his chambers,” a senior lawyer said.

The lawyers, like others that spoke to PREMIUM TIMES, would not want to be named as the matter is already before the courts and they are not allowed to speak on such.

“Only an higher court, say a Court of Appeal, or a Supreme Court can bar a lower court like any High Court from proceeding with a case,” another lawyer said.

“He is just trying to set the courts against themselves, but I am sure they would not fall for it,” he added.

Mr. Babalakin’s actions would sure cause another drama at both courts on December 12, a date chosen by both courts to continue the cases.

Download the court order here


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