A Federal High Court, Abuja, on Monday transferred the case filed by the police against 23 Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) officials to Port Harcourt division of the court.
The officials were docked for allegedly receiving N360 million as bribe from the Rivers Government to compromise the results of the December 10, 2016 re-run parliamentary elections in the state.
In his ruling, Justice John Tsoho said the argument of the police that the insecurity in Rivers would affect the trial was not tenable.
He said there was no evidence placed before the court to show pervasive insecurity in Rivers.
Mr. Tsoho further said that the video clips and photographs tendered by the police were incidents that happened before the Dec. 10 rerun elections.
He said the responsibility of providing security in any part of the country rests on the security operatives and not the court.
“I haven’t found out that Rivers has become ungovernable based on the alleged security situation in the state.
“So, based on Section 22 of the Federal High Court Act, the case has been transferred to the Port Harcourt division of the Federal High Court.
“Also, in line with Section 93, Sub.1 and 2 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act and Section 45 of the Federal High Court Act, which states that the trial of a case should take place where the offence was committed, I hereby transfer the case,” he said
The defence counsel, led by Ahmed Raji, had on the last adjourned date urged the court to decline hearing of the charge on grounds of territorial jurisdiction.
Alternatively, the defence asked the court for an order transferring the matter to the Port Harcourt division of the court.
The defence said the prosecution had not placed any evidence before the court to support the reason for charging the defendants before a court in Abuja for offences allegedly committed in Port Harcourt.
“We are challenging the court’s jurisdiction because all the alleged acts took place in Port Harcourt and none of the 1st to 20th defendants live here in Abuja.”
They also had argued that the defendants’ trial at the Federal High Court in Abuja was in breach of the constitution and the Criminal Justice Act.
The prosecuting counsel, Aliyu Alilu, however, argued that there was insecurity in Rivers , which could interfere with the trial.
Mr. Alilu urged the court to dismiss the defendants application challenging the court’s jurisdiction as it lacked merit.(NAN)