Mr. Wale Babalakin
Mr Rotimi Jacobs (SAN), prosecuting counsel for the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), has told a Federal High Court in Lagos that the EFCC had only ensured security surveillance at the hospital where Mr. Wale Babalakin, was receiving treatment to restrain his movement out of the country.
The prosecutor made the statement before Justice Mohammed Idris, in response to an earlier submission by the applicant’s counsel, Mr. Olawale Akoni (SAN), who had argued that officers of the respondents commission, had continously threatened the applicant with arrest, despite the pendency of a suit before the court.
Akoni had sought a clarification from the court as to the import of the leave it had granted the applicant, on November 29, to file an application for an order of prohibition against the respondents.
He informed the court that despite the leave granted in favour of the applicants, which he argued should ordinarily operate as a stay of further proceedings against the applicant by the respondents, they still engaged in harassing and threatening the applicant with arrest.
He said the respondents had chosen to show a total disregard for the court’s order served on them, even though the applicant had served them with both the court ruling and the provisions of law supporting it.
Akoni, therefore, urged the court to give a proper interpretation and clarification of the leave granted to the applicant by it in line with the provisions of Order 34 (6) of the Federal High Court Civil procedure rules, to which the leave relates.
Prosecuting counsel in his remark, told the court that following a security tip off on the planned elopement of the applicant, and in line with the fact that the applicant had personally informed the respondents of his intention to leave the hospital for his home, and had urged the respondents to guarantee that he would not be arrested, it then became important to put a check on him.
Jacobs said that the respondents had retorted to the applicant that they could not guarantee that he would not be arrested, since any individual charge with a criminal act, was subject to arrest at any time.
He said that based on these developments, officers of the respondents agency had embarked on a round-the-clock check and surveillance at the hospital vicinity where the applicant is, just to ensure that he does not ‘disappear into thin air’.
Justice Idris after listening to both counsels, slated December 14, for interpretation of the purport of the leave granted in favour of applicant.
Meanwhile, the applicant counsel had swiftly moved his application for a prohibition order before the court, arguing that the respondents had no power to prefer a charge against the applicant in Lagos state.
He argued that the EFCC, not been officers in the office of the A.G federation, could not undertake to charge the applicant with a federal offence in Lagos state, adding that it was the exclusive preserve of the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF).
Akoni also argued that to charge the applicant on an information in Lagos State, was an irregularity, as this also was the duty of the A.G Lagos state, and required the fiat of the Lagos A.G on the charge.
He, therefore, urged the court to grant the order of prohibition sought, and restrain the respondents from continuing with the criminal arraignment of the applicant since the whole process under which it sought to do this, is irregular.
Moving a preliminary objection to the application made by applicant’s counsel, Jacobs argued that by the provisions of section 318 of the constitution as amended, a public officer can initiate criminal proceedings against accused persons in court.
He argued that by that provision, public officers is construed to include officers and staffs of the respondents commission, which he argued is a creation and establishment of statute.
Jacobs also argued that the allegation of the applicants that the fiat of the A.G Lagos was not exhibited on the face of charge no ID/239C/2012, was a grave misconception, as this fiat had been clearly exhibited even for a discerning mind to see.
He said that the power of prosecuting offenders with criminal charges, was not exclusive to the AGF as the provision of section 17 of the constitution allows any other authority such as the respondents, to institute criminal proceedings.
He submitted that the import of the constitutional provision was that the office of the A.G Federation does not have the monopoly of prosecution.
“It is my submission that this suit was instituted by the applicant, to gag the respondents from discharging their lawful public duties.
“The ambitious order sought by the applicant is like an ‘otapiapia’ or a weapon of mass destruction, and should not be allowed. The suit clearly depicts the picture of a drowning man, desperately searching for where to hang on, to avoid drowning.
“I therefore urge the court to dismiss this gagging suit, with cost which I suggest should be paid by the applicant counsel if possible,” he submitted.
Justice Idris after listening to submission of both counsels also adjourned the matter to December 14 for judgment.