Strikes out suit against EFCC
By Davidson Iriekpen
A Federal High Court in Lagos Friday struck out a suit filed by the chairman of Bi-Courtney Group, Wale Babalakin to restrain the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission from proceeding with his arraignment and trial for alleged money laundering.
Babalakin had filed the suit to challenge the legality of the criminal charge filed against him by the anti-graft agency before the Lagos High Court, Ikeja.
The Bi-Courtney chairman argued that the EFCC lacked the power to prefer the charges against him at the Lagos Court without the fiat of the Lagos State Attorney General.
But Justice Mohammed Idris struck out the suit on technical ground.
Justice Idris held that Babalakin committed procedural errors by failing to comply with provisions of the court's rules.
The judge held that under Order 34 Rules 5 of the court's Civil Procedure Rules, the plaintiff "is required to depose to and file an affidavit of service of court processes on the respondents, a requirement Babalakin failed to comply with."
The judge, who relied on both the Supreme Court and Court of Appeal authorities in about 23 cases, held that the rules of court must be obeyed.
Justice Idris held that Babalakin's non-compliance with the said requirement robbed the court of jurisdiction to entertain the suit.
The court's decision was at variance with EFCC's prayer that the suit be dismissed on the ground that it was an abuse of court process.
By the judgement, the court declined to consider the case on its merit, while Babalakin could still initiate a similar suit before the Federal High Court in Lagos.
The judge, however, failed to interpret the effect of the earlier leave granted Babalakin through an ex-parte order.
The leave had generated a lot of controversies with the EFCC claiming that it did not imply a stay of all actions relating to the arraignment, as against the argument from Babalakin's side.
EFCC's lawyer, Rotimi Jacobs, had urged the court to dismiss the suit because it was clearly intended to prevent a statutory agency from carrying out its statutory functions.
On his part, Babalakin's lawyer, Wale Akoni, had while arguing the case, urged the court to grant the relief sought to prevent the EFCC and the Federal Attorney General and Justice Minister, Mohammed Adoke (first and second respondents respectively) from continuing with their act of illegality.
He said Babalakin's rights had been seriously trampled upon, adding that the EFCC even continued to extract statements from him after the charge at the Lagos High Court was filed, not minding the fact that he had been deceived that no such thing would happen.
Akoni further argued that the action of the EFCC and Adoke in preferring charges against Babalakin before the Lagos High Court was not done in accordance with the Constitution, the EFCC Act and the Criminal Code Laws of Lagos State.
He said the authority to prefer a charge at the High Court of any state, is the Attorney General of that state, whose fiat must be clearly exhibited on the face of the charge, adding that in the instant case, no fiat of the Lagos State Attorney General was exhibited to the charge.
The failure of Adoke and EFCC to exhibit the fiat of Lagos Attorney General, according to Akoni, makes the charge filed at the Lagos High Court unconstitutional.
Akoni further explained why the issue was not raised before the Lagos State High Court, saying doing so would amount to challenging the court's jurisdiction.