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N47.1bn theft charges: Akingbola pleads court to strike out suit by EFCC

By The Citizen
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Former Managing Director of the defunct Intercontinental Bank Plc (now Access Bank Plc), Mr. Erastus Akingbola, on Wednesday urged a Lagos High Court in Ikeja to strike out charges of stealing preferred against him by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

Also, the co-accused in the matter, Mr. Bayo Dada, also filed a similar application and argued it out on Wednesday.

However, the application was 'summarily dismissed' without EFCC even responding to it.

But Justice Adeniyi Onigbanjo fixed July 15 for ruling on Akingbola's application, which was dated July 4, 2013.

Onigbanjo, in a short ruling, described Dada's application as an abuse of court process on the grounds that it was filed late.

The judge added that Dada's counsel, Prof. Taiwo Osipitan (SAN), refused to concede to allowing EFCC's counsel to use the same affidavit opposing Akingbola's application against Dada's.

Dada, who was the General Manager, Tropics Security Ltd, and Akingbola were charged with 22 counts of stealing about N47.1bn belonging to the bank.

Akingbola, through his counsel, Chief Wole Olanipekun (SAN), argued that the EFCC, as an agent of the Federal Government, lacked the authority to prosecute stealing charges at a state High Court.

According to Olanipekun, the filing of the charges by the EFCC amounted to 'usurping' the power of the Attorney General of the state.

Olanipekun said, 'We are saying the Federal Government cannot prosecute a case of stealing before a Lagos High Court under the Lagos State Criminal Code.

'If Your Lordship overrules us on this issue, it means the Federal Government can come before the state High Court to prosecute a case of reckless driving or environmental offences.'

He added that the offences of stealing, for which the accused persons were being prosecuted, were not an 'economic crime', which EFCC had the authority to prosecute as envisaged under the EFCC Act.

'I urge Your Lordship to strike out the information (the charges) in itHowever, EFCC's prosecuting counsel, Mr. Emmanuel Ukala (SAN), argued that the Court of Appeal had earlier affirmed the power of EFCC to prosecute the case before the state High Court.

According to Ukala, the appellate court's decision was on the appeal filed by Akingbola, challenging the decision of the former trial judge, Justice Habeeb Abiru, who had earlier affirmed the authority of the EFCC to prosecute the same case.

Akingbola and Dada were re-arraigned before Onigbanjo after  Abiru was elevated to the Court of Appeal in 2012.

Ukala said, 'The Court of Appeal has ruled that the EFCC is competent to institute charges against the defendants in this court.

'Neither the Attorney General of the state or the Lagos State Government has the monopoly of authority to prosecute the theft charges.'