Tuesday, March 22, 2016 12:29 am
An Igbosere High Court, Lagos, on Monday dismissed a preliminary objection filed by a former Director-General of Nigeria Maritime Administration Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, challenging the jurisdiction of the court over alleged stealing of N754.7 million. The court also fixed 14 April for the beginning of trial.
Akpobolokemi is standing trial on a 13-count charge bordering on stealing.
He was arraigned by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) alongside Captain Agaba, Ekene Nwakuche, Governor Juan, Vincent Udoye, Captain Sahib Olopoenia and a company, Gama Marine Nigeria Ltd.
Akpobolokemi had through his lawyer, Dr Joseph Nwobike (SAN), filed a notice of preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to hear the suit.
He argued that by the virtue of provisions of Section 251 (1) (a) and (3) of the Constitution, only a Federal High Court had eexclusive jurisdiction to hear cases pertaining to and or connected with the revenue of the Federal Government of Nigeria and its agencies.
Also, the 4th accused, Governor Juan, through his counsel, Ige Asemudara, also filed a similar application.
Ruling on the preliminary objections, Justice Raliat Adebiyi, dismissed all the objections raised by the applicants on the grounds that they lacked merit.
The court held that the applicants wrongly raised the issue of double jeopardy.
She also said that there was no connection between the two charges filed against some of the accused before the Federal High Court and the one before the High Court of Lagos State.
Adebiyi, however, held that the offence of stealing was clearly within the jurisdiction of the Lagos High court.
She added that it would be too early at this stage of proceedings to determine whether Lagos High Court lacked jurisdiction to determine the suit.
The judge held that the issue of jurisdiction could be raised at any stage of the proceedings.
The applicants had in their preliminary objections argued that the provisions of Section 251 (1) (a), (P) and (3) of the Constitution supercedes the provisions of the Criminal Law of Lagos State 2011 and that of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission Establishment Act, 2004.
They also argued that the High Court of Lagos lacked the requisite jurisdiction to entertain criminal cases and matters arising from the revenue of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
But the EFCC, in its counter-affidavit, urged the court to refuse the application in the interest of justice more so when the proof of evidence before the court clearly linked the applicants to the alleged offence.
The accused were arraigned on Jan. 25 by the EFCC over alleged stealing of N754. 7million belonging to NIMASA.
They pleaded not guilty the charges and were granted bail.
The case was adjourned to April 14 and 20 for trial.