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A' COURT GRANTS AKINGBOLA LEAVE TO FILE FRESH GROUNDS OF APPEAL

By NBF News
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The Court of Appeal, Lagos on Tuesday granted leave to the ex-chief executive officer of Intercontinental Bank, Dr. Erastus Akingbola, to file more grounds of appeal against the jurisdiction of the lower court.

In its ruling, delivered by the presiding judge, Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi the court granted Akingbola leave to amend his Notice of Appeal and raise issues which had not been raised at the lower court.

The 9th ground of the proposed amended appeal was on the jurisdiction of the lower court to hear applications filed by the Economic and Financial Crime Commission (EFCC) during Christmas vacation.

According to Akingbola's counsel, Felix Fagbohungbe (SAN), Order 46 rule 4 of the Federal High Court (Civil Procedure) Rules, 2009, provides that all judges of the Federal High Court were precluded from hearing civil matters between December 23 and January 5.

He stated that all the applications filed by the EFCC were in a civil suit and were heard on December 30, 2009 and determined the following date (December 31).

The appellant added that the Federal High Court was on December 30 and 31st on Christmas vacation, adding that no summon was filed by the EFCC at the lower court for urgent hearing of the applications.

However, EFCC counsel, Oludamilola Babalola, had contended that the appellant had not given satisfactory reason why the issue of jurisdiction was not raised at the lower court and had not shown that he had suffered any injury.

Justice Tijani Abubakar of a Federal High Court in Lagos had frozen N346 billion and £11 million in six Nigerian banks allegedly belonging to the ex-bank manager.

The court had also placed an interim forfeiture order on Akingbola's alleged assets and choice properties in Nigeria and abroad.

It had also granted an application by the EFCC to temporarily freeze all his assets.

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos on Tuesday reserved ruling on an application for bail by the convicted ex-chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), Bello Lafiaji, and his special assistant, Usman Amali.

Lafiaji and Amali had been convicted and sentenced to four and two years respectively for official corruption and conspiracy by a Lagos High Court.

Both convicts, in two separate notices of appeal filed through their counsel were praying the court to grant them bail pending the determination of their appeal. They were also asking the appellate court to set aside the judgment that convicted them and acquit them accordingly.

Justice Olusola Williams of a Lagos High Court had refused a similar application filed by both appellants.

The ruling on their bail application had been adjourned subsequent to the submissions of their counsel, Professor Taiwo Osipitan (SAN) and the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences (ICPC)'s counsel, Bolaji Ayorinde (SAN).

Osipitan had argued that his clients had urged the court to grant them bail since they had been of good character throughout their trial at the lower court.

Professor Osipitan argued that there were serious circumstances in the applications to warrant granting of bail. He stated that the grounds raised in the application were exceptional circumstances on which the relief sought could be granted.

In his submission, Ayorinde urged the court to refuse the application on the ground that though Lafiaji's career with NDLEA started on a good note, 'he allowed the love of money to influence his judgment and made his career to end without honour.'

He argued that having been convicted by a court of competent jurisdiction, the appellants could not be presumed to be innocent.