The alleged fraudster appeared sick at the court on Thursday
Alleged serial fraudster, Fred Ajudua, was propped up by a prison warder in the dock as court proceedings continued, Thursday, over his defrauding of a retired Nigerian Army General.
It took his lawyer’s application to the judge before the latter allowed him to take up a sitting position inside the dock.
Mr. Ajudua, 52, is facing a 14-count charge of obtaining $6 million (about N1 billion) from Ishaya Bamaiyi, a former Chief of Army Staff, under false pretences. The crime was allegedly committed between November 2004 and June 2005 while both were incarcerated at the Kirikiri Prisons.
At the last sitting, Olalekan Ojo, Mr. Ajudua’s lawyer, had filed an application seeking to quash the charges against his client as well as stating that the court lacked jurisdiction on the matter.
On Thursday, Mr. Ojo told the court that the law upon which the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, the prosecution, filed their charges had been repealed.
“It is common ground that the 14 count charge was laid under a repealed law. Both parties concede that. That is, the Advance Fee Fraud and Other Fraud Related Offences Act of 1999. We clarify that it is this charge as framed that will determine whether this court has jurisdiction,” Mr. Ojo said.
“A charge laid under a repealed law is fundamentally defective and liable to be quashed,” he added.
Mr. Ojo cited a Supreme Court authority which stated that laying a charge under a repealed law is a “fundamental error.”
“If the defendant had been charged before the repeal, of course the trial will continue. It is not meant for anything after the law has been repealed. It amounts to ignorance,” said Mr. Ojo.
Mr. Ojo also reiterated his call for the court to order appropriate authorities to investigate and “possibly prosecute.” Mr. Bamaiyi and his cohorts for money laundering.
“The proof of evidence, at its face value, admitted a violation of the money laundering laws of Nigeria by the alleged victims.
“The offence of advance fee fraud is an offence against the proprietary right of the victim. In other words, as at the time of the commission of the offence, the victim must be the owner of the property. Where this cannot be shown under the law, a crime cannot be said to have been committed.
“There is a notionary divestment of that property to the federal government. Bamaiyi no longer has ownership of the fund,” Mr. Ojo added.
In his response, Seidu Atteh, counsel to the EFCC, said that the Court of Appeal had taken a decision on the constitutionality of filing charges under a repealed law and urged the court to abide by it.
On whether the $6 million belonged to Mr. Bamaiyi or the federal government, Mr. Atteh said that it was not an issue for the court to determine at “this preliminary stage.”
“That another offence had been committed cannot be a basis for his (Mr. Ajudua’s) defence. The trial must be governed by the substantive law enforced as at the time the crime was committed.
“On the issue of the money no longer belonging to Bamaiyi, these are triable issues. It cannot be determined at this stage of the proceedings,” Mr. Atteh added.
Oluwatoyin Ipaye, the trial judge, adjourned till March 3 for the ruling of the court.