The Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal yesterday fixed January 19, 2017 to hear an appeal filed by embattled Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Rickey Tafar, challenging the refusal of a Lagos High Court to quash the bribery charges filed against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
The EFCC had arraigned Tarfa on March 10 on the allegation that he offered N5.3million gratification to a judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Hyeladzira Nganjiwa, in order to allegedly compromise the judge.
The anti-graft agency alleged that Tarfa transferred the money in several tranches to the judge between June 27, 2012 and December 23, 2014.
But Tarfa, through his defence team, comprising about 34 SANs, filed a motion on notice, challenging the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the case.
However, the trial judge, Justice A A Akintoye, in her ruling, dismissed the application and held that she has jurisdiction to entertain the case. Dissatisfied, Tarfa filed notice of appeal and urged the appellate court to allow his appeal and set aside the ruling of the lower court.
At the appellate court yesterday, appellant’s lawyer, Biodun Owonikoko (SAN), informed the court that record of appeal had been compiled and transmitted adding that the appeal is ripe for hearing.
Also, EFCC lawyer, Rotimi Oyedepo, informed the court that the commission had filed its briefs and was ready to argue the appeal.
Consequently, the presiding Justice, Justice Mohammed Lawal Garuba, fixed January 19 for the hearing of the appeal.
Tarfa had urged the lower court to quash the 27 counts filed by the EFCC, claiming that the EFCC had no statutory power to try him on those charges.
They had argued that the proof of evidence supplied by the EFCC failed to support the charges, describing the charges as incompetent and an abuse of court processes.
They prayed for an order of the court restraining the EFCC from further investigating or prosecution Tarfa in relation to the subject matter.
But, Justice Akintoye said she found enough substance in the proof of evidence placed before the court by the EFCC to warrant calling for the trial of the case.
“There are alleged crimes and the applicant has allegedly committed those crimes by the proof of evidence filed before the court. I hold therefore that the information filed before this court disclosed a prima facie case which must be addressed,” the judge held.
In refusing Tarfa’s claim that the charges amounted to a violation of his rights, the judge referred to provisions of the EFCC Establishment Act which imposed on the anti-graft agency “the statutory duty, obligation and mandate to investigate and prosecute all cases of economic crimes.”
The judge upheld the argument of the EFCC that a court of law could not restrain a statutory body from performing its statutory duties.
She held: “There commission is therefore duty-bound to perform its statutory duty without interference from external body, including but not limited to the court. “This court will, therefore, not restrain the EFFC from performing any of its statutory duties in respect of anyone including the applicant in this case. I hold that this court has the jurisdiction to entertain the information/charges dated March 10, 2016.”
Justice Akintoye said Tarfa’s application failed and refused all the prayers sought.
In the 27 counts filed against him, the EFCC, among other things, also accused Tarfa of supplying false information to it.
The EFCC alleged that Tarfa gave his age as 43 when he was indeed 54, an act the EFCC claimed to be an offence under section 38(2) (a) of the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004.