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Daniel queries court jurisdiction over fraud charges

Published by Guardian on Fri, 20 Jan 2012

FORMER Ogun State governor, Gbenga Daniel yesterday prayed an Abeokuta High Court to quash charges of fraud proffered against him by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC), a federal agency which he argued has no power to prosecute 'state offences.'Though the trial was to begin yesterday, Daniel, in a dramatic move brought an eight-count affidavit asking Justice Olanrewaju Mabekoje to quash all the 43-count charges against him, claiming the court lacks 'locus standi' to try the case.Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) led 13 other lawyers to defend the accused while Mr. Rotimi Jacobs and two others represented the Plaintiffs.Daniel's effort not to stand in the dock yesterday during proceedings failed. As soon as proceedings began, Osipitan told the court: 'Though the trial was to begin today, supervening event between November 28 and today (yesterday) has prompted us to file application seeking to quash the amended charges based on ground of jurisdiction and locus standi.'He argued that until the court determined whether it has jurisdiction to hear the case or not, his client should not be in the dock because doing so would be an infringement on his fundamental human rights. But Jacobs countered the argument, saying Osipitan's objection was misconceived. 'It is statutory that the accused appear in court and he had agreed to appear in all sittings and it was based on this he was granted bail,' Jacobs said.He noted that bail was granted Daniel on the condition that he would fulfill his own part of the agreement. He urged the judge to discountenance Osipitan's argument that Daniel should not be in the dock. After hot arguments between the two parties, Justice Mabekoje adjourned for 30 minutes and returned to give his ruling that Daniel should be in the dock.Daniel's legal team later argued, among others, that from the proof of evidence, the Ogun State government and the 20 local councils which are the victims in the alleged fraud did not petition the EFCC, neither the State Ministry of Local Government which Daniel has been accused of converting its funds petition the anti-graft agency. Hence the charges are nullity.Citing various legal authorities to buttress his point, Osipitan urged the judge to quash all the 43 counts, claiming 'all the counts are unconstitutional because the prosecution is the Federal Government and we are running a federation and the Federal Government has no power to trial State offences.'But Jacobs in his response insisted that all the legal authorities Osipitan cited to buttress his point were irrelevant to the case at hand.'My Lord can only depend on Proof of Evidence for this case at this point in time and not whether the court has jurisdiction or not. Besides, their motion is not complete because they referred to exhibits, which they did not attach to the motion. They are just trying to scuttle the trial today,' Jacobs said.On Osipitan's argument that neither the Ogun State government nor the local councils petitioned the EFCC, Jacobs argued that the argument was misconceived, insisting that, 'the ordinary citizens of the state are the complainants.'He citedlegal authorities to prove that the Federal government through the EFCC has power to investigate and prosecute anyone without any formal complaint.The case was adjourned to today (Friday) for Jacobs to continue his response to Osipitan's argument.
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