UPDATED: After years of trial over N4.7 billion fraud, Babalakin cleared by Court

Wale Babalakin

Wale Babalakin, the billionaire Chairman of Bi-Courtney Limited, walked out of the Ikeja High Court in Lagos, Monday, a free man after years of prosecution for an alleged N4.7 billion fraud by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC.

Delivering his ruling, Justice Lateef Lawal-Akapo said the EFCC had failed to disclose enough information to sustain the allegations against Mr. Babalakin, and his co-defendants.

“The amended information filed May 7, 2013, is incurably bad and defective,” the judge held.

Mr. Babalakin, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria; Alex Okoh, a banker; and their companies Bi-Courtney Limited, Renix Nigeria Limited, and Stabilini Visioni Limited had been charged on a 27-count charge of fraud, conspiracy, and retention of proceeds of criminal conduct.

The EFCC accused Mr. Babalakin of helping James Ibori, a former governor of Delta State who is now serving a jail term in the UK, to launder N4.7 billion state funds.

The defendants were first arraigned in January 2013, after which began a series of court room dramas that culminated in their discharge.

Long walk to freedom

Efforts to arraign the defendants were stalled on November 29, 2012, and December 12, 2012, after Mr. Babalakin’s counsel told the judge that his client was on admission at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital, LUTH.

Three days before his initially scheduled arraignment on November 29, the lawyer visited the Lagos office of the EFCC to seek an administrative bail, with a promise that he would appear in court on the fixed date.

When the day arrived, Mr. Babalakin was nowhere near the Ikeja High Court, as his lawyer, Ebun Sofunde, told the judge that his client had suddenly fallen ill.

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

However, while his lawyer was apologizing to the judge over his client’s absence, another set of lawyers were at the Federal High Court in Ikoyi secretly seeking succour for Mr. Babalakin before Justice Mohammed Idris.

The development led to an “embarrassed” Mr. Sofunde, who said he was unaware of the suit at the federal court, announcing his withdrawal from Mr. Babalakin’s legal team inside the court room.

Mr. Babalakin had three reliefs before the federal court – an order to permit him to file an application that would bar the EFCC and other government agencies from prosecuting him; an order restraining the EFCC from further prosecuting him at the Lagos High Court, and an order that would bar the EFCC, the police and other security agencies from “arresting, harassing, or detaining” him.

The judge struck out two of the three reliefs, only granting the billionaire lawyer the relief to file an application before him.

Two weeks later, Mr. Idris dismissed Mr. Babalakin’s application seeking to evade prosecution.

His lawyers promptly filed the same suit before another judge, Ibrahim Buba, urging him to enforce his client’s fundamental rights.

On December 21, Mr. Buba delivered a tersely worded ruling directing the “learned SAN” to take his “cat and mouse” application to the state high court.

“I do not find any merit in the fundamental rights application of the applicant,” the judge ruled.

“The applicant cannot approach this court to enforce fundamental human rights, since the court has a concurrent jurisdiction with the Lagos State High Court on matters touching on fundamental rights.”

The same month, the Civil Society Network Against Corruption, CSNAC, petitioned the National Judicial Council urging it to sanction Mr. Babalakin for his attempts to “ridicule the judiciary”.

On January 17, 2013, the defendants were finally arraigned before Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo on a 27 count charge.

Then, their lawyers, which included at least three senior advocates, went to work, inundating the judge with a series of applications – an application to quash the charges because the EFCC did not obtain a “valid fiat” from the Attorney-General of the Federation, an application to adjourn the matter indefinitely, and an application to travel abroad for medical check-up (filed twice in three months).

And there was a pending application at the Court of Appeal questioning the jurisdiction of the Lagos High Court, among others.

At a point, Mr. Babalakin’s lawyer told the court his client could not enter the court room because he was using clutches and would need a wheelchair to be moved into the court room.

Mr. Onigbanjo was forced to adjourn proceedings on several occasions saying that he needed more time to finish writing the rulings on the plethora of applications pending before him.

By the end of 2013, the matter was transferred from Mr. Onigbanjo to Mr. Lawal-Akapo, and Mr. Mr. Babalakin’s lawyers began filling an application urging the court to grant their client the leave to stay away from the dock pending the determination of the charges against him.

The new judge agreed and “excused” the defendants from the dock.

When the judge announced his freedom on Monday, Mr. Babalakin maintained a poker face from where he was seated at the gallery.

The defence team had argued that as a state governor, Mr. Ibori was not a public official to warrant the defendants being charged under Section 98(a) of the Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State 2003.

They also noted that the charge sheet was signed only by an EFCC official, one A.M Yusuf, with no representation from the Attorney-General of the Federation’s office.

The defence further argued that Mr. Yusuf failed to indicate his position in the charge sheet.

In his ruling, Mr. Lawal-Akapo noted that though the EFCC had the powers to prosecute the defendants with or without a fiat, the charge did not disclose enough particulars to warrant a conviction.

The judge also held that as a state governor, Mr. Ibori was not a public official as canvassed by the prosecution, adding that Mr. Yusuf’s failure to disclose his position was detrimental to the charge.

The judge said that while the EFCC relied on Section 158 of the Administration of Criminal Justice in Lagos State to charge the defendants, Section 35(a) of the Constitution was superior to it.

“Consequentially, the accused persons are hereby discharged,” the judge ruled.


DOWNLOAD THE PREMIUM TIMES MOBILE APP

Now available on

  Premium Times Android mobile applicationPremium Times iOS mobile applicationPremium Times blackberry mobile applicationPremium Times windows mobile application

TEXT AD: Revealed!!! The Only Way Left of Getting an Extra Large Manhood and also Last Up to 38Mins+. Get the Insider Secret Here


All rights reserved. This material and any other material on this platform may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, written or distributed in full or in part, without written permission from PREMIUM TIMES.


  • Ayelala

    Someone borrowed money from banks to build an airport. Yet some people wanted to take it from him. Funny country

  • Comfortkay

    THIS BABALAKIN CASE SHOW THAT NIGERIA JUDICIARY IS A PROBLEM.

  • Cole B.

    Before Judges of Courts kill Nigeria with aiding and abetting

    JAMES Ibori and his London lawyer are languishing in London prison on the same facts
    which James Ibori was declared NOT GUILTY of by Nigeria’s execrable Federal High Court

    which continues in infamy like a self-disgracing and condemnable Court of Acquittal

    of almost all criminals brought before it for stealing and for all manner of financial crimes.
    As it is, Nigeria’s Court Judges no longer need sermons – a good few need jailing.

  • Cole

    Before Judges of Courts kill Nigeria with aiding and abetting

    JAMES Ibori and his London lawyer are languishing in London prison on the same facts
    which James Ibori was declared NOT GUILTY of by Nigeria’s execrable Federal High Court
    which continues in infamy like a self-disgracing and condemnable Court of Acquittal
    of almost all criminals brought before it for stealing and for all manner of financial crimes.
    As it is, Nigeria’s Court Judges no longer need sermons – a good few need jailing.

    • Seadog

      “The only way to stop us from stealing is to stone us. The Nigerian followers
      are as guilty as the Nigerian leaders. The Nigerian institutions are all compromised
      and there is no alternative to them as it is. Nigerians appear not to be against stealing
      and corruption but only against how long you stay stealing and being corrupt.
      Don’t ever expect those in public office to fight corruption on these facts.”

      ….…..Governor Rotimi Amaechi
      (Rivers state)

      (June 30th, 2014)

      • Questioner

        BEFORE WE ALL GET CARRIED AWAY BY SOME CASH-AND-CARRY NIGERIAN JUDGES,
        IN A COURT SYSTEM PEOPLE HOLD THEIR NOSES AT AGAINST CORRUPTIVE STENCH,

        THE UN-ANSWERED QUESTION OF THE MOMENT – AS WE WERE SAYING – IS THIS:

    • Oley

      COLE:

      I am sorry, but i think i have now come to a definite conclusion today that
      Nigeria will be a better place without any Magistrate Court or a High Court,
      or even a Court of Appeal or Supreme Court, if none of these descriptive
      adjectives fulfils the purpose of a court which is to be found in the verdicts
      they issue un-erringly without reasoning, but rather full of taint by impure motives;
      which no un-prepossessed mind in Nigeria can say he sees or senses as ‘justice done’.

      • Ali

        Ha, ha, that means you too now agree with us in the APC party,
        that no need anymore for any court in Nigeria and from now on,
        dogs and baboons will just soak in blood?

  • Dani and Ross

    ABUSE OF JUDICIAL POWER BY JUDGE LATEEF LAWAL-AKAPO

    This is how Federal Attorney-General Mohammed Adoke under-develops Nigeria.
    With a competent federal attorney-general, this High Court Judge, Lateef Lawal-Akapo
    would not have dared issue such a reckless court order virtually granting impunity to the
    accused person over a whopping ₦4.7 billion that is factually missing in treasury funds.

    Especially given that James Ibori himself is in London jail on a plea of confession to crime.
    The accused person – Wale Babalakin – allegedly money-laundered the cash via Mauritius
    for James Ibori the said money and now, without Judge Lateef Lawal-Akapo even asking
    Wale Babalakin a single question he’s told him to go home, meaning he’s go to free.

    Where is the common sense here and where is the judicial reasoning in this court order?
    It is a total mis-use of judicial power to recklessly convert a mostly nonsensical legal term
    called ‘prima facie case’ into a virtual ‘acquittal’ where treasury fund is still missing.
    A thinking attorney-general would refer Judge Lateef Lawal-Akapo right away for sanctions
    by the Nigerian Judicial Council and for prompt review of his appointment as a judicial officer.

  • Pastor Jones

    “For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?
    The getting of treasures by a lying tongue, or Judge, is a vanity tossed to and fro
    of those that seek death. There are thorns and snares on the path of the crooked.
    Anyone who guards himself prudently will stay far from them. Brethren, you shall not steal.
    Theft entails deceit; and in a heart where the spirit of deceit is,
    there, the spirit of God cannot be.”

    …………Holy Bible

  • Dani & Ross

    ABUSE OF JUDICIAL POWER BY JUDGE LATEEF LAWAL-AKAPO

    This is how Federal Attorney-General Mohammed Adoke under-develops Nigeria.
    With a competent federal attorney-general, this High Court Judge, Lateef Lawal-Akapo
    would not have dared issue such a reckless court order virtually granting impunity to the
    accused person over a whopping ₦4.7 billion that is factually missing in treasury funds.

    Especially given that James Ibori himself is in London jail on a plea of confession to crime.
    The accused person – Wale Babalakin – allegedly money-laundered the cash via Mauritius
    for James Ibori, and now, without Judge Lateef Lawal-Akapo even asking Wale Babalakin
    a single question he’s told him to go home, meaning he’s to go free.

    Where is the common sense here and where is the judicial reasoning in this court order?
    It is a total mis-use of judicial power to recklessly convert a mostly nonsensical legal term
    called ‘prima facie case’ into a virtual ‘acquittal’ where treasury fund is still missing.
    A thinking attorney-general would refer Judge Lateef Lawal-Akapo right away for sanctions
    by the Nigerian Judicial Council and for prompt review of his appointment as a judicial officer.

  • Bayonle

    I have a quiz for everyone here. Who is the next person who the skewed and politically compromised Nigerian Judiciary will free? Thaaat person is the druggist-Femi Fanikayode- the megaphone for Mr. Goodluck Jonathan’s re-election campaign!!! Everyone should just wait!! It is going to be a reward for this is the corrupt way the corrupt oil man-Goodluck Jonathan rewards!!!

  • favourtalk

    That is the country we live in, a corrupt fellow go Scott free without proper trial in the country. We had our and destroy the nation because we want to satisfy some people. They have brought down the democracy of our country. We need a good leader and a change

  • bello audu

    BEFORE WE ALL GET CARRIED AWAY BY SOME CASH-AND-CARRY NIGERIAN JUDGES,
    IN A COURT SYSTEM PEOPLE HOLD THEIR NOSES AT AGAINST CORRUPTIVE STENCH,

    THE UN-ANSWERED QUESTION OF THE MOMENT – AS WE WERE SAYING – IS THIS:

  • True Nigerian

    With the rate at which this country sets criminals free, it is only a matter of time before crime and impunity uproots this country.

    Nigeria has no judiciary! Apparently, criminals are allowed to shop for judges until they find a judge who can set them free for the most flimsy reasons. This country is rotten to the bones, and there is no hope.

    Vote for Buhari, and save yourself and your children from the likely consequences of criminal impunity in this land.