Alex Enumah in Abuja
Efforts by an Edo State based cleric and activist, Bishop Osadolor Ochei, through the court, to compel the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to commence criminal investigation against former Edo State governor, Adams Oshiomhole, over corruption allegations failed yesterday, following the striking out of his suit at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
Bishop Ochei in the suit filed against the EFCC and Oshiomhole, prayed the court to order the EFCC to investigate different petitions that contained allegations of financial recklessness against Oshiomhole.
But the trial judge, Justice Anwuli Chikere, in a ruling on the preliminary objection filed by Oshiomhole, held that the suit was statute-barred and subsequently struck it out.
According to Justice Chikere, the plaintiff ought to have filed the suit, three months from the cause of action.
After striking out the suit, the judge held that it would be needless for the court to go into other issues in the suit, since the suit itself was statute-barred.
Justice Chikere however agreed with the plaintiff that, by the Act establishing the EFCC, the commission is under the obligation to investigate and prosecute allegations of financial and economic crime.
Oshiomhole had in his preliminary objection argued by his lawyer, Terhemba Gbashima, urged the court to dismiss the suit on the grounds that the plaintiff lacked the locus standi (legal right) to institute the action in the first place.
Gbashima in asking the court to dismiss Bishop Ochei’s suit against Oshiomhole and the EFCC, submitted that the suit was not competent by law, because it was filed18 months after the cause of action.
According to him, the plaintiff, whom he described as a meddle-some interloper, ought to have filed the suit three months after the cause of action.
He also submitted that Bishop Ochei has not shown how the alleged cause of action has affected him more than other indigenes of Edo State and asked the court to dismiss the suit for being incompetent.
In her response, counsel to the plaintiff, Uju Chukwurah, asked the court to discountenance the preliminary objection of Oshiomhole, who is the second respondent in the suit as well as that of the EFCC.
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.
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, seeking to invoke an order of mandamus to compel it to initiate criminal proceedings against Oshiomhole, who is now the National Chairman of the All Progressive Congress (APC).
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 the petitions containing “weighty allegations” against Oshiomhole, ran contrary to Section 15(5) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).
According to the plaintiff, Oshiomhole, while in office as Edo State governor, procured properties far in excess of his legitimate income.