Alex Enumah in Abuja
Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Federal High Court in Abuja, will on May 13, 2019, rule on the objection of a former Governor of Edo State and National Chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole, to a suit seeking to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to commence criminal investigation against him over alleged financial misappropriation as Governor of Edo State.
Justice Chikere announced the date yesterday, shortly after counsel to parties in the matter made their submissions on the preliminary objections.
Oshiomhole yesterday asked the court to dismiss the suit seeking to compel the EFCC to commence criminal investigation against him for lacking in merit.
The APC chairman in a preliminary objection to the suit filed by a Benin-based cleric and activist, Bishop Osadolor Ochei, said the plaintiff lacks the locus standing (legal right) to institute the action.
Arguing the preliminary objection, Oshiomhole’s lawyer, Terhemba Gbashima, told the court that the suit filed by the plaintiff is status-barred, as it was filed18 months after the cause of action.
According to him, the plaintiff, whom he described as a meddlesome interloper, ought to have filed the suit three months after the cause of action.
Gbashima, who prayed the court to dismiss the suit or in alternative, strike it out, also submitted that Osadolor has not shown how the alleged cause of action has affected him more than other indigenes of the state and asked the court to dismiss the suit for being incompetent.
In her response, counsel to the plaintiff, Uju Chukwurah, urged the court to discountenance the preliminary objection of Oshiomhole, who is the second respondent in the suit.
She said the EFCC, which was represented in court by Best Ojukwu, is empowered to investigate financial crimes against anybody and as such, it is under a statutory duty to examine the petition brought before it by the petitioner.
While praying the court to dismissed the preliminary objection, Chukwurah said there is a continuous damage, since the subject matter of the plaintiff’s petition has not been addressed, adding that, until the petition is dealt with, the plaintiff’s matter cannot be said to be statute-barred.
She said the plaintiff, being an indigene of Edo state, has the legal right to file the suit.
Justice Chikere however adjourned till May 13, 2019 for ruling on the preliminary objections.
The plaintiff had dragged the EFCC and Oshiomhole to court, praying the court to order the EFCC to investigate different petitions that contained allegations of financial recklessness against Oshiomhole.
The anti-graft agency has, in its preliminary objections, challenged the jurisdiction of the Federal High Court in Abuja to compel it to arrest and prosecute Oshiomhole, over allegation that he diverted public funds to his personal use while in office as governor.
EFCC admitted that it has received petitions accusing Oshiomhole of complicity in acts of corruption, but added that it was not under any obligation to report or give account of its investigations to any individual or under a timeline within which to carry out its functions.
The anti-graft agency, therefore, urged the court to dismiss the suit that is seeking to invoke an order of mandamus to compel it to initiate criminal proceedings against the embattled APC Chairman.
The plaintiff told the court that Oshiomhole, while in office as Edo state governor, procured properties far in excess of his legitimate income.
The Bishop told the court that he sent a petition to the EFCC on November 4, 2016 where he detailed the alleged corrupt practices the ex-governor was allegedly involved in.
He maintained that EFCC’s refusal to act on petitions containing “weighty allegations” against Oshiomhole, ran contrary to Section 15(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
But the EFCC, in a preliminary objection challenged the locus- standi of the applicant to file the action.
The anti-graft agency said it has discretion on how to use its available manpower to carry out investigations into petitions submitted to it.