Mr. Akingbola is the former managing director of Intercontinental Bank.
A Lagos High Court, Ikeja, on Wednesday adjourned till July 15 for ruling on Erastus Akingbola’s application to quash the fraud charges against him.
Mr. Akingbola, the former Managing Director of the now defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc, and Bayo Dada are facing a 22-count charge of stealing N47 billion belonging to the bank.
Mr. Dada is the General Manager of Tropics Finance Ltd.
Three days – July 10, 15, and 18 – had been fixed, last February, for trial.
But on Wednesday, both defendants brought application to quash the fraud charges against them.
While Adeniyi Onigbanjo, the trial judge, fixed July 15 for ruling on Mr. Akingbola’s application and “possibly continuation of proceedings;” he struck out Mr. Dada’s application accusing him of abusing court process.
The judge said that Mr. Dada filed his application a few days ago, after the judge had adjourned for trial since February 26.
The refusal of Taiwo Osipitan, Mr. Dada’s counsel, to allow the prosecution use the same counter affidavit for both the first and second defendants also led to the judge striking out his application.
“The peculiar circumstances surrounding this trial, especially the fact that today was fixed for trial since the 26th of February, 2013, in the presence of Professor Osipitan, and the refusal to allow the prosecution use the same counter affidavit for the second defendant…,” said Mr. Onigbanjo.
“All these make the application of the second defendant an abuse of court process, so it is summarily struck out,” he added.
‘DO NOT PROSECUTE ME’
In his argument, Wole Olanipekun, counsel to Mr. Akingbola, urged the court to strike out the charges instituted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.
Mr. Olanipekun said that a federal government agency cannot prosecute a case of stealing before a state court.
“The first accused (Mr. Akingbola) is charged with stealing under the Lagos State Criminal Code and the person prosecuting is the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” Mr. Olanipekun, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, said.
Mr. Olanipekun said that the federal government is attempting to usurp the powers of Lagos State.
“There is no nexus between the Federal Government of Nigeria and the said law,” said Mr. Olanipekun.
“We are bringing the application under Section 211 of the 1999 Constitution which vests the prosecution in the hands of the Attorney General of Lagos State,” he added.
Mr. Olanipekun further argued that the Lagos State Attorney General must give his fiat, and that his client had been accused of stealing, and not money laundering.
“If the Federal Republic of Nigeria can prosecute the case of stealing, it means they can prosecute stealing of yams, traffic offences, and environmental offences,” said Mr. Olanipekun.
In his response, the prosecutor, Emmanuel Ukala said that the issues raised by the defence had been argued before Habeeb Abiru, the former trial judge, and at the Court of Appeal.
Messrs Akingbola and Dada’s trial was previously before Mr. Abiru before it was transferred to Mr. Onigbanjo, after the former was elevated to the Court of Appeal.
Mr. Ukala said that the Court of Appeal made “far reaching” pronouncements in its judgment, last year, regarding Mr. Akingbola.
“The court recognized the fact that a criminal proceeding can be commenced not only by the Attorney General of the state, but any other authority or person,” said Mr. Ukala, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria.
“It did not say that the Attorney General of a state has the monopoly to prosecute at the state high court.
“The Court of Appeal also concluded that the EFCC has rightly initiated criminal proceedings under the state law, but the Attorney General of Lagos State has the power to either take over or override it,” said Mr. Ukala.
“It is only the Attorney General of the Lagos State that can complain, and not the defendant,” he added.
Mr. Ukala also stated that the charges of stealing filed by the anti graft agency falls under economic crimes which is under the EFCC Act.
“The EFCC is acting as of right within its authority to do what it’s supposed to do,” he said.
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