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EFCC lays siege in LUTH for Babalakin

By The Citizen
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WITH Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) operatives 'storming' the Lagos University Teaching Hospital (LUTH) for ailing Bi-Courtney Chairman Wale Babalakin, the bid for the lawyer-businessman's trial is getting more dramatic.

But the EFCC insisted yesterday that its team did not invade LUTH with armed policemen but that 'a few' of its operatives were in the hospital to watch over Babalakin and confirm that he is actually on admission.

Babalakin and four others have been charged to court with alleged laundering of N3.4billion through Mauritius for ex-Delta State Governor James Ibori to buy a Challenger jet.

The others are Alex Okoh, Stabilini Visioni Limited, Bi-Courtney Limited and Remix Nigeria Limited

They are also to face a 27-count charge in the High Court of Lagos State , Ikeja Division bordering on the alleged siphoning of $11.3million abroad for Ibori through Erin Aviation Account in Mauritius.

But when the suspects were to be arraigned last week, Babalakin was said to have fallen ill. Justice Onigbanjo adjourned the case till December 12.

After a week of trailing Babalakin, the EFCC on Tuesday night sent a team of operatives to the ward where the businessman is being treated.

A source, who spoke in confidence, said: 'Babalakin was in the hospital on Tuesday night when armed policemen from the EFCC invaded the ward looking for him. 'The policemen were led by DSP Mohammed Lawan. They wanted to have access to Babalakin but the hospital management said it was not ethically allowed in medical practice.

'So, in the last 24 hours, these armed policemen have been hanging around the hospital.'

Justice Mohammed Idris of a Federal High Court, Lagos has granted leave to Babalakin to apply for an order preventing the EFCC and the Attorney-General of the Federation from going ahead with his arraignment.

Head of Media and Publicity of the EFCC Mr. Wilson Uwujiaren, said there was nothing like invasion of LUTH by the operatives of the commission.

The source said the EFCC operatives are only in LUTH to keep watch over Babalakin and make sure that he is actually hospitalized.

Uwujiaren added: 'I would say there is nothing like storming the place. Our people are civilised; they will not go to a hospital to upset those who are sick.

'We have plain-cloth operatives around just to ensure that he is in the hospital. Our operatives are there to make sure that the claim he made that he is in the hospital is true.

'We are watching over Babalakin to ensure that the man is in the hospital.

'He is on full surveillance because the court gave the directive to verify the claim that he is in the hospital and ensure that he is present in court at the next adjourned date.

'What is there is that he and four others have a case to answer as in the charge sheet.'

Bi-Courtney, in its reaction to the development, on Wednesday, condemned the action of the agency, describing it as a violation of Babalakin's rights and an attempt to thwart justice.

The statement by the company's spokesman, Dipo Kehinde, said: 'This is a new trend in judicial administration in Nigeria and it reflects desperation by EFCC to violate provisions of the law and constitution in order to circumvent justice, and a violation of the basic human rights of the citizen.

'It is noteworthy that this brings back sad memories of the days of Gen. Sani Abacha, when the rights of Nigerians were trampled upon with ease.'

The order of a Federal High Court, in Lagos, which restrained the EFCC from proceeding with Babalakin's trial and arraignment, a copy of which was obtained by journalists, specifically stated: 'Also perusing the amended statement, it is clear that serious issues of constitutionalism and the exercise of powers of public institutions and bodies have been raised. By the provisions of Order 34 Rule 6 (a) of the Rules of this Court, it appears to me that if the order sought is an order of prohibition and certiorari and leave is granted, the grant should operate as a stay of proceedings to which the appropriate application relates.

'Relief 1 is granted as prayed; an order is hereby made granting leave to the applicant herein to apply for an order of prohibition against the respondents and any other officers, agents, or security agencies of the Government of the Federation, including without limitation to the Nigeria Police Force or the State Security Service, acting by themselves, or through any of their officers, agents, privies or otherwise howsoever, prohibiting them from proceeding with the arraignment or trial of the Applicant further to Charge No. ID/239C/2012 pending at the Ikeja Division of the High Court of Lagos State, which was preferred by the Respondents.' (Nation)