The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has approached the Supreme Court to set aside the July 25, 2023 discharge of former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido and his son, Mustapha Lamido, by the Abuja Division of the Court of Appeal.
The former governor, his two sons, Aminu and Mustapha, Aminu Wada Abubakar, and their companies, Bamaina Holdings Ltd and Speeds International Ltd are standing trial before Justice Ijeoma Ojukwu of the Federal High Court, Abuja on a 37-count amended charge of money laundering to the tune of N1.35 billion fraud.
Lamido allegedly abused his position as governor between 2007 and 2015 and laundered several sums of money which he received as kickbacks from companies that were awarded contracts by Jigawa State Government under his leadership.
The trial which commenced in 2015 has seen the Commission calling over 16 witnesses before closing its case. Rather than open their defence, the defendants opted for a no- case submission, arguing that the prosecution had not placed sufficient materials before the court to warrant their defence.
But Justice Ojukwu, threw out the no-case submission, and upheld EFCC’s submission that Lamido and the other defendants had a case to answer and ordered them to open their defence. Dissatisfied, Lamido proceeded to the Appellate Court on appeal.
The appellate court had in a ruling on July 25, held that the no-case submission filed by the defendants was meritorious, struck out the charge and discharged the former governor and his son.
However, in a notice of appeal filed at the Supreme Court and dated July 31, 2023, the EFCC is asking the apex court to set aside the whole decision of the Court of Appeal and order a return of the case to the trial court “to continue and conclude same”, on the grounds that the appellate court erred in law when it discharged the respondents.
Among the four grounds of the appeal is the contention by the appellant that the Court of Appeal erred in law when it held that case was wrongly commenced in Abuja Division of the Federal High Court instead of Kano and proceeded to strike out the charge and discharge the appellants.
Contrary to the decision of the appellate court, the appellant contends that Section 98(1) of the ACJA, 2015 confers on the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court the power to transfer a case from one court to another where the transfer of the case will promote the ends of justice or will be in the interest of the public peace According to the appellant, “The record of the appeal or evidence before the court below showed that the instant case was commenced in Kano Judicial Division of the Federal High Court but was transferred to Abuja for security reasons.
“The power of transfer conferred on the Chief Judge of the Federal High Court by Section 98(1) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act, 2015 is not limited to transfer of a case from one court to another within a Judicial Division but extends to power to transfer a case from one Judicial Division to another where such transfer will promote the ends of justice or will be in the interest of public peace.
“There was also evidence and or proof of evidence before the court that some of the elements of the offences for which the respondents and others were charged occurred in Abuja.”
The appellant further avers that the “proper order to make pursuant to Section 15 and 23 of the Court of Appeal Act Cap. C36 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 and Section 22 of the Federal High Court Act Cap. F12 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004 was to have transferred the case to the Kano Judicial Division of the Federal High Court instead of striking out the charge and discharging the appellants.”
The EFCC also assert that the appellate court’s overlook of the failure by the respondents to insert the names of other parties in their Notice of Appeal was grievous error, as Order 7 Rule 2(1) of the Court of Appeal Rules 2021 states that “all appeals shall be by way of rehearing and shall be brought by Notice of Appeal which shall set forth the grounds of appeal, the exact nature of the relief sought and the names and addresses of all parties affected by the appeal.
“The said unilateral and arbitrary exclusion of some of the parties in the Notice of Appeal by the respondents without the leave of the court is not a mere irregularity but a fundamental vice which rendered the Notice of Appeal incompetent and invalid”.