N4.BN SCAM: S'COURT STRIKES OUT EX-GOV AUDU'S APPLICATION
The Supreme Court of Nigeria has struck out an application for stay of proceedings before High Court of Kogi State filed by ex-governor, Abubakar Audu, who is being prosecuted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, (EFCC) over embezzlement of public funds.
The ex-governor, had on January 24, 2011, filed an application for stay of proceedings at the high court, pending the final determination of the substantive suit, before the apex court.
Five justices, including the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Dahiru Musdapher, took the decision to strike out the application on November 16, 2011, while sitting in Chambers. The other four justices are: Walter Samuel Nkanu Onnoghen, John Afolabi Afibiyi, Olufunlola Oyelola Adekeye and Mary Peter Odili.
Audu was originally arraigned on an 80-count charge of fraud and embezzlement of public funds to the tune of over N4 billion while he was governor between 1999 and 2003. The charges, which were filed on November 30, 2006 had suffered several setbacks.
At the resumed hearing of the case in Lokoja on December 9, 2011, the one page ruling of the Supreme Court, was presented before presiding Justice, Saidu Tanko Husseini of the High Court of Kogi State. It was to clear the barricade that had characterized the proceedings of the corruption case that commenced since 2006.
But immediately the attention of the court was drawn by the prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs to the ruling, Audu's counsel Mike Ozekhome (SAN) expressed shock at the one page ruling, telling the court that the document could be another forgery and should not be admitted by the court.
He said all through his years as a lawyer, he had never seen or heard where justices of the Supreme Court would sit and take decision on a case when the counsels were not present.
Jacobs, however, explained that such an outburst from a SAN was a serious indictment on his person and his practice: 'What my learned silk is saying is that I forged a Supreme Court document and present same before your Lordship, my Lord and then I stand to lose my practice licence. This is a very grievous allegation, which I will urge my Lordship not to take lightly.'
After listening to the arguments, Justice Husseini said he was going to adjourn the case by one week to enable the defence counsel verify the authenticity or otherwise of the Supreme Court ruling. He then adjourned till December 22, 2011, for continuation of hearing.
When the case came up on October 6, 2011, prosecution counsel, Rotimi Jacobs argued that the attempt of Audu to resort to the appellant court when there was no need for that was to lay foundation for the delay of the prosecution of the charges against him as he argued further that trial in a criminal matter must be done within a reasonable time.
According to Jacobs, 'Section 40 of the EFCC Establishment Act clearly states that subject to the provisions of the Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, an application for stay of proceedings in respect of any criminal matter brought by the Commission before the High Court shall not be entertained until judgment is delivered by the high Court'.
Leading the defence team, Mike Ozekhome, SAN, had asked the court to adjourn the matter sine-die since the case is before the Supreme Court. He further argued that the issue of appeal is a constitutional right of the accused.
Count one of the 80 count charge against Audu reads 'that you, Prince Abubakar Audu on or about 6th day of Feb 2001 at Kogi State Judicial Division by false pretence and with intent to fraud obtained from Kogi State Directorate of Rural Development, the sum of N6, 263.000 purporting same to be part payment made to Leo Flinch Nig. Ltd in respect of a contract allegedly awarded by Kogi State Directorate of Rural Development to the said Leo Flinch Nig. Ltd and you thereby committed an offence punishable under section 1 (3) of the Advance Fee fraud and other related offences Act 13 of 1995 as amended by Act No 62 of 1999.