Court Orders El-Rufai's Prosecution Over Graft Charges
SAN FRANCISCO, March 28, (THEWILL) - A High Court of the Federal Capital Territory in Abuja today granted the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC leave to prosecute a former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory , FCT, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and two others on a newly amended eight count charge. The two other accused persons are former Director-General, Abuja Geographic Information System( AGIS); Altine Jubrin, and former General- Manager, AGIS, Ismail Iro. They had in the last adjourned date, through their counsel, Messrs Akin Olujimi (SAN) and Kanu Agabi (SAN), opposed their arraignment on the ground that the charge in which they were brought to court was predicated upon a law that was null and void and therefore lacked merit.
They also went ahead to question the jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter saying that the ICPC Act 2003, under which the accused persons were charged, had been repealed and could therefore not be used as a legal platform for their trial. They also argued that the EFCC lacked the power to prosecute them as the entire allegation against them did not constitute financial crimes . In response, counsel to the EFCC, Adebayo Adelodun (SAN) submitted that El-Rufai and the other accused persons are newly brought before the court on the basis of an eight amended charges and urged the court to allow their immediate arraignment. He pointed out that, “as a matter of law and fact, the objection on this ground has become mute, spent and academic by reason that the prosecution had filed an amended charge.” He vehemently opposed the plank upon which the defence counsel based their objection to the arraignment saying that the objection was doomed since it was based on an un-reported decision of a Court of Appeal that had been voided by the Supreme court.
Furthermore, the prosecution counsel said that the offences the accused persons were charged are known to written laws stressing that it is not correct to say they were charged under a non- existing law. Ruling on the consolidated motions to amend the charges and arraign the accused persons with that of the preliminary objections by the defence counsel, Justice Abubakar Sadiq concurred with all the positions canvassed by the prosecution and ruled that the ICPC Act 2003 on which the defence based their main argument to oppose their trial has been voided. He ruled that “the ICPC Act 2000 is a valid, subsisting and a life legislation which has not been invalidated, I have not come across any judgment or any act of the National Assembly that repealed or voided that act.”
He further disagreed with defence counsel on their argument that where a law is pronounced void without revalidation, it ceases to have effect and therefore it is incurably bad. He ruled that owing to the present situation and in accordance to Section 208(1) of the Criminal Procedure Code, the court “has the discretion to alter, add to or frame a new charge by way of amendment anytime before judgment is delivered.” Justice Sadiq in addition stated that “ vital consideration which governs the amendment of a charge, whether to grant the leave to amend a charge or not before ruling, is that such may be made without injustice to the accused persons and in this case, the accused persons are yet to take their plea, so I cannot see how a miscarriage of justice is occasioned in this instance.” As to whether the anti-corruption agency (EFCC) has the power to initiate the prosecution of the accused persons, the judge concurred with the prosecution that EFCC’s mandate is elastic.
He stressed that both EFCC and ICPC are organs of government and that EFCC is prosecuting the case on behalf of the Attorney General of the Federation and the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He equally said that Section 6( b and c) not only empowers the Commission to investigate a whole gamut of criminal activities but that “the inclusion of the word ‘et cetera’ and ‘include’ in section 46 means an extension of crimes not mentioned therein and is intended to construe other crimes not intrinsically mentioned. The power of EFCC is elastic and covers wider ground and the word corruption in the context of the charge being preferred is applicable in this case as it is an alleged usage of office to confer undue advantage on self or on others.” He thereafter granted leave to EFCC to prosecute the accused persons and ordered their counsel to produce them in court at the next adjourned date of April 7th , 2011 for arraignment.