Court refuses Sylva's application to quash charge, travel abroad

By The Rainbow

A Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, on Thursday, held that former governor of Bayelsa State, Timipre Sylva has case too answer in the charges filed against him  by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The court presided over by Justice Adamu Bello therefore rejected Sylva's application for the quashing of the charges.

The court also, in a separate ruling, refused the application of Sylva to travel to the United Kingdom to accompany his wife on a medical trip.

However, Sylva, same Thursday, appealed against the decision of the court, refusing his application to terminate his trial on the charge of stealing public funds and money laundering.

Justice Bello ruled that  Sylva's application to quash the charge against him lacked merit.

The court also refused Sylva's application for the release of his international passport to enable him travel abroad with his wife, who was scheduled for surgery at a United Kingdom hospital today.

Sylva had, in the first motion filed in June last year, urged the court to quash the six-count charge against him on the ground that no evidence linked him to the alleged offences and  that the proof of evidence did not disclose a prima facie case against him, that the charge was frivolous, unconstitutional and amounted to an abuse of court process.

He had, with the second motion filed in April, sought the leave of the court to accompany his wife on a medical trip abroad. He said his wife was due for an urgent surgery in London and needed his company.

The court, in refusing the first application, held  that it was premature for Sylva to contend that the charge was frivolous and that there was no evidence linking him with the offences alleged.

Justice Bello, relying on the Court of Appeal's decision in the case of Alamieyeseigha vs the Federal Government reported in 2006, 16 NWLR part 1004, held that there was a distinction between the summary trial conducted by the Federal High Court and the trial by information as done the state High Court.

'Under the summary trial, the question of whether the proof of evidence is sufficient could only be determined after the prosecution has closed its case and if a no-case submission made by the defence, it is then the court can decide whether or not a prima facie case is established, not before,' the judge held.

The court further held that the summary trial procedure was constitutional, but that the procedure was not constitutional was adopted by the accused person because, by his motion, he sought to prevent the prosecution from proving its case against him. He held that by seeking to quash the charge before the prosecution was allowed to present its case, amounts to denying it the right to fair hearing, since the accused person has had the opportunity of pleading not guilty to the charge.

In refusing the other motion, Justice Bello, observed a number of conflicting information in the exhibits tendered by Sylva.

The judge noted that while the letter referring Mrs Sylva to Cromwell Hospital, London for treatment was written by a Nigerian doctor at the University of Port-Harcourt Teaching Hospital, no response was  addressed to the Nigerian doctor by the London hospital.

Justice Bello, however, held that the observed conflicting information were insufficient to sway the court into denying the applicant's motion, but that the motion would only be denied on the ground that Sylva was still being investigated by the EFCC.

He consequently threw out the motion and advised Sylva to make an alternate arrangement to have a relative accompany his wife on the trip, if necessary. The court later adjourned July 8 for the commencement of trial.