Appeal Court affirms Bode George's conviction

By NBF News

The Lagos division of the Court of Appeal has affirmed the conviction of former deputy national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Chief Olabode George, and five other former top officials of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).

A statement by Mr. Femi Babafemi, head, Media & Publicity of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), said that in a unanimous judgment read by Justice Clara Bata Ogunbiyi, who led two other justices, the appellate court dismissed all the 25 grounds of appeal by the appellants and ruled that George and the five others were properly charged and convicted under the relevant laws of Lagos State.

The court also dismissed the appeal by counsel to the respondent, Mr. Festus Keyamo, urging it to convict the appellants on the count of inflation of contracts in which the lower court had discharged and acquitted them.

On the preliminary objection raised by the counsel to the appellants, led by Chief Tunji Ayanlaja, to the effect that the charges upon which the appellants were convicted by the lower court was defective, on the grounds that the appellants ought not to be tried under the Lagos Criminal Code, and that the Attorney General of the Federation did not concede the prosecutorial powers of his office to the Attorney General of Lagos State, the Appeal Court ruled that the lower court has jurisdiction to try the case and that the appellants were properly charged and convicted, as clearly defined in Lagos Criminal code.

The court held that federal employees were not immune from the laws of the state they operate from.

The appellate court similarly dismissed the argument of the appellants questioning the qualification of Keyamo to conduct their trial, alleging that he did not receive a fiat from the Attorney General of the Federation to do so.

It ruled that the appellants' counsel ought to have raised the issue at the lower court. The court brushed aside the appellants' contention that being non-executive directors of the NPA, they didn't fit into the definition of public officers by law, and therefore not liable to be convicted.

Another ground of appeal that also failed was the issue of awarding contracts beyond approval limit, in which the appellants' counsel submitted that they did so out of ignorance. The learned justices of the Appeal Court held that ignorance is no excuse in law.