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EL-RUFAI TO FACE TRIAL -COURT RULES

By NBF News
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A Federal Capital Territory High Court presided over by Justice Sadiq Abubakar Umar yesterday, turned down an application filed by a former Minister of the FCT, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai and two others to quash the charges of misconduct and abuse of office filed against them by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC. In his ruling, Justice Umar  said the consolidated motion on notice filed by the accused persons on May 12 and June 28, 2011, through their counsel is unmeritorious and has failed the test of law. The judge who maintained that the prosecution has established a prima-facie case against them ordered that the three accused persons must face trial to defend the charges against them.

The two other accused persons arraigned with El-Rufai are a former Director-General, Abuja Geographic Information System (AGIS); Altine Jubrin, and a former General-Manager, Abuja Geographic Information System, AGIS, Ismail Iro.

The judge, said that from the proof of evidence before the court, the three accused persons have explanation to make in the course of trial. He also said that Section 2 of the ICPC Act was elastic enough to hold the accused persons liable to face trial . The EFCC had on Wednesday, July 6, 2011, argued that the three accused persons as public officers, could be tried by the Commission as the anti-graft agency has an absolute authority to prefer charges against them.

Counsel to the EFCC, Adebayo Adelodun, SAN, had questioned the motion seeking to quash the charges, saying that it was an abuse of court processes to have brought the same motion which had earlier been ruled upon. He said that the court had on March 28th, 2011, granted EFCC leave to prefer charges against the accused persons and that the court's decision was borne out of proof that the EFCC had a prima facie case against them. Adelodun further averred that the defence counsel's submission that the first accused person, Mallam El- Rufai was not a public officer but rather a political appointee hence should not be charged under the ICPC's Act, was erroneous as section 2 of the ICPC Act clearly describes a public officer as one who is employed or engaged in the service of the federation. 'My lord, the enabling law has intrinsically described who a public officer is and takes into consideration circumstances of other people engaged as consultants, ministers, and other non- regular staff in the service of the federation.'

On the argument by the defence counsel that the charges had violated the law of duplicity and should then be quashed, prosecution counsel said that according to some rulings of both the Supreme and Appeal courts, it was not in all cases that duplicity of charges were deemed as a sufficient ground to quash a case but only when there was an occasion to miscarry justice. 'The use of conjunctives 'and' and 'or'   which the defence counsel are relying upon to drive their argument of duplicity cannot be sustained as it does not in any way mean that  but is explanatory in nature as to the time of committing the crime.', Adelodun had submitted. He had insisted that the crime for which the first accused was being charged was committed before his disengagement in May 29 2007.

Earlier, Messrs Akin Olujinmi (SAN) and Kanu Agabi (SAN), counsel to the accused persons had separately asked the court through applications brought to quash the case against their clients, saying that the offences being alleged were not disclosed in the proof of evidence and that it was an abuse of court processes to have duplicated their charges.