For two hours, on Tuesday, Justice Aishat Opesanwo of a Lagos High Court, Igbosere, in a ruling assumed jurisdiction to entertain a two-count charge filed against a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Rickey Tarfa, by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The judge dismissed Tarfa’s preliminary objection to a charge bordering on obstructing officers of law from carrying out their official duties and attempting to pervert the cause of justice.
Tarfa had, in an application filed through his counsel, Mr. Abiodun Owonikoko (SAN), argued that the case was an abuse of court process and urged the court to quash the charge and decline jurisdiction.
Owonikoko had argued that the authority of EFCC to prosecute was limited to economic and financial crimes, which the alleged offences of obstructing officers of law and attempting to perverse the cause of justice were not.
Furthermore, the senior lawyer told the court that the agency had no powers to prosecute general criminal offences outside its jurisdiction.
He added that the allegations against Tarfa were the subject of an appeal before the Court of Appeal, and the charge thus constituted an abuse of court process.
Owonikoko argued that by virtue of Section 286 of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law 2004, the EFCC could not be a complainant, an investigator and, at the same time, a prosecutor.
“The filing of this charge is a clear case of abuse of court process. Therefore, the proper order is to dismiss the charge,” he stated.
However, in a 28-paragraph affidavit dated March 28, counsel to the EFCC, Mr. G. K. Latona, urged the court to disregard the submission of the defence counsel.
He said an existence of a civil appeal does not have any relation with this particular case, adding that the Federal Republic of Nigeria was not a party to the case before the appeal court.
The judge ruled that the applicant’s argument that the EFCC was both the accuser, investigator and judge could not be substantiated.
“No such situation exists in this case,” she ruled.
The judge ruled further that the EFCC had “since come to be recognised as an agent of the government, whether State or Federal, such that there is a presumption that it is an agent of government,” it is thus qualified to institute an action on behalf of both.
On the allegation of contacting a judge, Justice Opesanwo ruled that Tarfa “had some explaining to do.
“The facts require the applicant to explain the legitimacy of his actions,” the judge ruled.
“The application is one which I find no merit and must dismiss in totality,” she held.
The EFCC had, on February 16, arraigned Rickey Tarfa for allegedly obstructing its operatives from carrying out their lawful duty.
In charge No.LD/2417C/16, filed before Justice Opesanwo, the Commission alleged that Tarfa on February 5, 2016, hid two suspects, Nazaire Sorou Gnanhoue and Modeste Finagnon, both Beninoise, in his Mercedes Benz Sports Utility Vehicle car, thereby shielding them from arrest and willfully obstructing the cause of justice.