An application filed by Gnanhoe Sourou Nazaire and Senou Modeste Finagnon, both citizens of Republic of Benin, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the charge filed against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), was, on, Monday, dismissed by a Lagos State High Court, in Igbosere.
The duo are standing trial for allegedly defrauding one Rachidatou Abdou and her company to the tune of N630 million.
Upon their arraignment onFebruary 17, they pleaded not guilty to the charge and subsequently filed an application through their lawyer, Mr. Rickey Tarfa (SAN), asking the court to quash the charge preferred against them on the ground that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the matter.
The defendants also alleged that the charge was incompetent and that the EFCC was prosecuting them without any valid petition.
But, dismissing the application, Justice Taiwo held that the Lagos High Court had jurisdiction to hear the matter and that the charge did not fall under the Company and Allied Matters Act.
“I believe the high court is endowed with jurisdiction to entertain the matter”, Justice Taiwo held.
On whether EFCC had the power to initiate the charge against the defendants, the court held that the EFCC received a valid petition from the complainant alleging conspiracy and stealing against the defendants.
“The stealing of company fund falls within the jurisdiction of the EFCC. The combined effect of Sections 6 (b) and 46 of EFCC Act gives it power to entertain the petition written against the defendants”, Justice Taiwo said.
On whether the charge was an abuse of court process, the court held that “the fact that the defendants have been arraigned before a sister court does not make the present case abuse of court process. However, it would have been better and neater for the two cases to be before a single judge, instead of lawyers shuttling from one court to another”.
Meanwhile, the matter has been adjourned till June 27 for trial.
EFCC’s counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, had in an 11- paragraph counter affidavit, asked the court to assume jurisdiction and hear the matter. Oyedepo stated that most of the declarations contained in the first and second defendant’s application were false.
He said that the Commission did not need a petition to prosecute a matter even though it received a petition from one Rachidatou Abdou through the law firm of Falana and Falana against the defendants.
On the competency of the charge, the prosecuting counsel submitted that upon receipt of the petition, the Commission assigned a team of investigators to probe the case and that examination revealed that the defendants conspired to commit felony, forgery and stealing.
Oyedepo also told the court to dismiss the submission of the defendant as the Commission was a Federal Government agency statutorily empowered to prosecute cases of this nature.
He added that the office of the Attorney-General of Lagos State had, through a fiat, conceded its prosecutorial powers to the Commission to prosecute economic and financial crime-related offences.