A Federal High Court in Lagos yesterday dismissed an application by four companies, which pleaded guilty to laundering $15.5million allegedly belonging to former First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan.
The companies -Â Pluto Property and Investment Company Limited, Seagate Property Development and Investment Company Limited, Transocean Property and Investment Company limited and Globus Integrated Service Limited, hadÂ prayed the court to reverse their guilty plea and nullify the previous proceedings because those who represented the companies were not authorised to do so.
The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arraigned them with a former Special Adviser on Domestic Affairs to President Jonathan, Dr. Waripamo Dudafa, a lawyer, Amajuoyi Briggs, who is the companiesâ€™ secretary, and a banker, Adedamola Bolodeoku with Skye Bank Plc.
Unlike the companies, Dudafa, Briggs and Bolodeoku pleaded not guilty to the 17-count charge.
The companiesâ€™ lawyer Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), told Justice Babs Kuewumi, that his clients were not given a fair trial before their conviction because they had no legal representation of their choice.
Ozekhome said he was briefed to represent the companies after its directors pleaded guilty despite not being authorised by the board to do so.
Moving his motion seeking to set aside the companies conviction, Ozekhome said they were convicted â€œin gross violationâ€ of the 1999 Constitution, which he said occasioned a miscarriage of justice.
He prayed that the trial be done afresh and that the previous proceedings be declared null, void and unsustainable in law.
The application, he said, was on the grounds that the court failed to pass a sentence on the convicted companies, as the judge reserved sentence until end of the other defendantsâ€™ trial.
Besides, Ozekhome said the companies were denied the right to cross-examine the purported directors who purportedly pleaded guilty.
â€œTheyâ€™re just busybodies and interlopers who were pressure to come and plead guilty. They had no mandate to do so,â€ he said.
But, prosecuting counsel, Rotimi Oyedepo, urged the court to refuse the application for being an abuse of court process.
According to him, it amounted to asking the judge to revisit his ruling and to assume the position of an appellate court
He denied that the directors who pleaded guilty were not authorised to do so, saying there was evidence that they were indeed the companiesâ€™ directors from the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) and from the companiesâ€™ bank accounts.
At yesterdayâ€™s proceedings, the companies were represented by Mr. Oluigbo O, who held the brief of Chief Mike Ozakhome (SAN), Mr. Ademola Adefolaju, who stood in for Gboyega Oyewole (SAN), for Dudafa, and Ige Asemudara, who represented Briggs.
Ruling on the application, Justice Kuewumi held that a lower court can only reserve himself in exceptional cases where there is â€œa serious procedural irregularityâ€ or where the court lacks jurisdiction.
â€œThe main issue to be addressed in this application is whether this court can revisit its earlier decision whereby the applicants were convicted. Once a court gives an order or judgment, it has no legal competence to reverse itself or set aside its previous order.
â€œConsidering the circumstances of this case, I have not been shown any valid reason to make me revisit my decision. This court is already functus officio.
â€œIâ€™m in agreement with the prosecution that this application is incompetent. It is hereby refused and accordingly dismissed,â€ the judge held.
The matter has been adjourned untilÂ October 17Â for hearing.