Mr. Atuche is being prosecuted, alongside his wife, for stealing funds belonging to the defunct BankPHB.
An Ikeja High Court on Monday dismissed an application by a former Managing Director of Bank PHB, Francis Atuche, asking the court to stay further proceedings of his trial.
Justice Lateefat Okunnu in her ruling held that Section 273 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law (ACJL) prohibited her from entertaining the application.
The judge said Section 40 of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) Act also compelled her not to determine the application.
According to her, Section 36 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that a criminal charge should be concluded in a timely manner.
“I hereby strike out the application in its entirety,” she said.
The judge consequently adjourned the matter till March 11, for continuation of the trial.
Mr. Atuche and his wife, Elizabeth, are being prosecuted for allegedly stealing N25.7 billion belonging to Bank PHB.
They were charged to court by the EFCC, alongside a former Chief Financial Officer of the bank, Ugo Anyanwu.
Moving the application earlier, Mr. Atuche’s counsel, Anthony Idigbe, urged the court to stay proceedings on the trial.
Mr. Idigbe said the stay was necessary pending the determination of the various appeals filed by both the EFCC and Mr. Atuche before the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal.
He said the EFCC had filed an application for stay of proceedings at the appeal court and had also petitioned that the panel of judges be reconstituted.
“The prosecution has filed a stay of proceedings against our appeal at the Appeal Court.
“They want the court to stay hearing of our appeal pending the determination of their own appeal against the ruling delivered by the Appeal Court on Nov. 21, 2013 at the Supreme Court.
Mr. Idigbe said the Appeal Court, had in the ruling struck out the theft charges preferred against a former Managing Director of Finbank Plc, Okey Nwosu, by the EFCC.
According to him, Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo, also of an Ikeja High Court, has adjourned another matter involving Mr. Atuche on the same grounds indefinitely.
He further accused the EFCC of frustrating Mr. Atuche’s appeal at the Appeal Court by seeking a stay of proceedings and demanding the reconstitution of the panel of judges.
Mr. Idigbe said it was, therefore, proper and in the interest of justice for the court to wait for the decision of the apex court.
Responding, the EFCC counsel, Kemi Pinheiro, said the application should be dismissed for being an abuse of court processes.
“The law as it stands mandate the court to uphold Section 40 of the EFCC Act.
“It is a deliberate ploy to delay and truncate this proceeding,” Mr. Pinheiro said.
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